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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/31

It was awful lonely at the floating bookshop for the first two hours today. No one stopped by. I saw none of my regulars. I thought it was going to be one of those days. Fortunately, a nice young couple happened to spot the children's books I had on display and bought four. I'd sold the man Louis Gelormino's autobiographical The Gent's Prayer a few weeks ago, which he is enjoying. I told him how disappointed I was that the email address and guest book at the accompanying website are not functioning. I wanted to congratulate Gelormino on a life well-lived. All my efforts to track him down on the web have failed. I hope he shows up one day so I can tell him in person. I haven't seen the gregarious Carmine in a while. My instincts tell me Carmine and Louis are friends. They are of a similar age.
A while later there occurred one of those inevitable amusing incidents that are bound to crop up while spending so much time on the street. I spotted a guy about to feed the meter and called out to him that it was Sunday. I love denying the city money it does not deserve. I wonder how much it accumulates this way. Anyway, the guy was so pleased he gave me a dollar. I would have been happier if he'd taken a book. I'm not looking for nor do I need charity, but I've learned that it is a mistake to argue about such things.
A middle aged couple capped the activities by buying thrillers by Dean Koontz and James Patterson. I didn't know if I should inform them that the Patterson book was co-written, which, I suspect, means Patterson did not write any of it. I've informed customers of that in the past. I guess I was a little too eager for the sale. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned....
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/30

Thanks to Jack, employee of the Chase Bank at Bay Parkway and 85th, who bought four thrillers to read on his long commute home to Queens. He goes through one every few days. I was relieved to see him, fearing he had lost his job. Just back from a two-week vacation, he had the readjustment blues, a feeling I knew all too well in my days working the trading floor, especially before the introduction of the hand held computers that made the job so much easier. Prior to that we had to clap to get the attention of the people at the podium, who relayed the trades we were reporting via telephone to others sitting at computers. It was frustrating and nerve-wracking when the market was busy. These days the market has evolved to where 80% of the trades occur on computers, leaving out slews of middle men. I would guess that 80% of the employees at One North End lost their jobs. Sometimes progress is painful. A lot of good people, especially those over 50, have had a tough time adjusting. Conservative pundits have dubbed this type of occurrence as the "creative destruction" of capitalism. One of the best and most easily understood examples of this is what has happened to the music industry. For years vinyl records ruled, then eight-tracks and cassettes improved the delivery, then CDs did it even better, and now the digital revolution has allowed consumers to pick and choose songs from an incredible catalog at a reasonable price. We can custom make CDs for our cars, or download thousands of songs into the marvel that is an IPOD. We can eliminate the filler that characterized so many albums, or even download an entire album - freedom of choice. And the sound is wonderful, at least to my ear. Those who complain it is too compressed must have supersonic hearing. Then again, they may be full of it. I once viewed a PBS program wherein experts were asked to pick between different delivery systems. They were as often wrong as right. As a society, we have to hope that this creative destruction will always yield good results. So far its track record is outstanding, despite the roadblocks the criminals in Washington put in the way. In my view, they are more dangerous to an economy than any other factor. A lot of record shops have closed. There is a sadness in that, but the alternative is infinitely better.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/29

Two years ago today on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester County, New York, a woman under the influence of drugs and alcohol drove the wrong way and wiped out eight lives, including her own, when she collided head on with a car going the right way. Her husband has been in denial ever since, refusing to accept the toxicology reports. He is suing the owner of the car, a relative he deems responsible for allowing his wife to drive, and the family of the driver of the other vehicle, who he claims was driving recklessly. I don't like to make broad generalizations about our vast society, but sometimes it's hard not to. So many are infected with a sense of entitlement and a lack of responsibility that is downright scary. I think of it as the "culture of gimme." I don't understand how a suit was even allowed to begin against the other driver, who was killed along with his two passengers, even if he was speeding, which many of us do. He was guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What a farce.
Switching gears completely, I had a nice surprise today. A gentleman who has passed the floating bookshop countless times stopped and asked: "Did you go to Lafayette?" I looked him in the eye and told him my name. "I knew you looked familiar," he said. When Frank told me his name I had to look deep past the glasses and receding hairline to find the handsome face I hadn't seen in more than 40 years. He used to hang out in the schoolyard of P.S. 97, in what we referred to as the West Streets. Many of his friends were classmates of mine at St. Mary's Elementary School. I rattled off names we had in common. Our groups had played softball against each other. Their leader, Ronnie, was killed in action in Vietnam. Frank spent 1969 there, and when he came home it seemed all his friends had moved away. We knew the whereabouts of only one. Frank is a retired postman and lives in the same complex I do, two buildings over. I was so happy he spoke up. I would never have recognized him.
Thanks to the kind folks who purchased books the past two days and to the folks at Ipsos surveys for the check, which will begin defraying the biggest expense of the year - the car insurance bill. Also thanks to our stellar porter, Frankie, who gave me a box of books a former tenant left behind. Gracias, amigo.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/27

Arlynn had news she didn't want to hear today. She had another scraping for a biopsy and was really pissed at the doctor, who she calls "cold." She suspects the guy is merely looking for another big pay day, since he suggests she have a mole removed that all women in her family have. And, of course, the two areas would have to be treated on separate visits, as Medicare wouldn't cover the common sense move of doing them at once. She also had to stop at her neurologist, who she has been seeing for 20 years. He assured her the spot in question is probably nothing. He gave her several prescriptions, which she brought to Monica's, which was raided yesterday by the Office of the Inspector General. Since the computers were confiscated, she will have to pick up the stuff tomorrow. In my view, government has created a climate of racketeering in the medical field. We went out for pizza after this latest debacle. This time it was my treat.
I've been worried about the health of my friend Morty, a 75-year-old retired salesman who stops by the floating bookshop every day. He's been losing weight and his voice seems a bit hoarse. He seems to be in good spirits, however, so I hope my fears are unfounded. He was all smiles today. He bought a lot of Ensure to counteract the weight loss. It was a $60 value. He paid $12. That's the type of thing he's always telling me about and lives for.
A couple of elderly women living in rent-controlled apartments in my building have died. They were tenants since the place open in 1960. Those flats will now be renovated and put on the open market by the co-op board, a bonanza, alas too late to head off the proposed rise in our maintenance fee, which hasn't moved for many, many years. Oh, well, all good things must end.
Thanks to the Russian woman who purchased five books for her granddaughter, and to the music fan/security guard who has been so kind to me, who purchased both the Ultimate Sinatra and Ultimate Jazz CDs. I finally learned his name - William. I'm running out of blank CDs - and that's a good thing.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/26

There was no action on book front today, but plenty otherwise. Monica's Pharmacy, Anteka to use the Russian term, just 100 feet from where I usually set up shop, was raided by agents of OIG, Office of Inspector General, which combats fraud. The shop was closed for a while as loads of paperwork were carried and carted to two vans. As soon as the authorities left, it was business as usual. Arlynn buys her meds there. Of course, if they're guilty, they should be shut down.
A bit later two of the local drinking crew took a seat on the ledge that guards the narrow garden that spans the apartment building directly in front of me. It rises only a foot and a half from the ground. I often sit on it myself to rest my legs. Anyway, the boys pulled a bottle of wine from a paper bag and were miffed that there was a cork in it. Expletives flew. One had a screwdriver in his bag of tricks. For the next 15 minutes they got nowhere, until one spotted half a cinder block in the small courtyard between the building and Monica's. They used it as a hammer, and it did the trick. They knocked the cork into the bottle and proceeded to chug away. Soon one of them noticed the authentic Coast Guard hat I was wearing, which Arlynn's son Jaime had given me as thanks for accompanying his mom to her radiation treatments. He identified himself as former 11 Bravo, an infantryman, and held out his hand for a fist bump. I obliged. I was relieved when the bottle was drained and they went on their way.
It looked like it was going to be a very disappointing day until Kofi showed up at about three. He purchased both the Ultimate Sinatra and Ultimate Jazz Cds I'd recently burned. Thanks, sir. I will burn replacements before I log off for the night.
Speaking of music, Waj pulled up to the gyro stand in his SUV, delivering supplies, which, since his promotion, is his new job. When he opened the hatch, Middle Eastern music blasted into the street. It sounded good and was certainly an improvement from the time he unleashed x-rated hip hop on the area.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/25

It was good to be back in my usual spot, even though I sold only a Mary Higgins Clark mystery today. Thanks, ma'am. And it was so great not having to deal with oppressive heat. The cloud cover and stiff wind negated the high humidity. What a relief. Thanks also to the gentleman who donated three paperbacks to the cause.
I had never heard of Jhumpa Lahiri until actor/singer Johnny Feets spotted Unaccustomed Earth (2008), a collection of long short stories (oxymoron) among the books I had on display. He said she wrote like an angel. That day I took it home. I've just finished it. The stories are about people of Bengali (India) origin living in the United States. She writes about real life, without any embellishment other than her beautiful prose. She shows the customs of the characters, which are different than that of most Americans. More importantly, she reveals their humanity, which is exactly like anyone else's. The parents hold onto ties from their old lives, just as mine did, while their American-born children become westernized. I characterize this type of work, as I would 90% of my own, as "explorations of the bittersweet mystery of life." While reading, I was reminded of a film I recently viewed on DVD, Tokyo Story (1953). In it, an elderly couple living in a remote village decide to visit their children, who, busy with their own lives, have little time for them. There is no action, but plenty of understated interaction - just like in real life. The characters, except a young widow at the end, rarely show any deep emotion. They are decent folk lost in the great mystery of life. Director Yasujiro Ozu ( yes, there were others besides the great Kurosawa making movies in Japan) allows viewers to form their own conclusions. It is rife with hard truths.
Lahiri's debut collection of stories, The Interpreter of Maladies (1999), was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. I was happy to learn she has chosen Brooklyn as her home, although the yuppie-hipster section of Park Slope seems so different from the rest of the borough. I wonder if she ever passed the floating bookshop when I used to set up shop there.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/21

It didn't feel like there was much relief  from the heat when I left the house, despite the cloud cover. The humidity was high. I decided to set up shop, anyway, even though I'd left a bottle of seltzer in the freezer. It seems I'm forgeting at least one thing every day. Scary.
I set up under the tree on Bay Parkway and 85th in case the sun eventually popped out, and I immediately sold Stephen King's Duma Key to a young man carrying a large pizza. There were sporadic sprinkles in the air, but not enough to have me pack up. Miguel showed, fresh from church, prayer book in hand. He posts a lot of Christian-oriented stuff on his Facebook page. A recent one concerned suicide. He got a message from a woman he did not remember befriending, who said the post saved her from doing something really stupid. He got all choked up telling me this. He truly believes God had had him intervene. I told him of the meeting I'd had with Louis Gelormino on that very spot two weeks ago. Crazy Louie, as he was known in his gang days, went on to become a successful lawyer and wrote a memoir, The Gent's Prayer. He also believes God, through certain people, has intervened on his behalf. It must be nice to have such faith. Thanks to Miguel for purchasing Alexander McCall Smith's Morality for Young Girls, a mystery set in Botswana.
The only disappointment of the day was Joann, who has donated so many books to me, not showing up. Lately, several people have asked if I had anything by Cynthia Freeman, who specialized in multi-generational stories about Jews, usually with a female character at the center. She died in 1988. Her books were translated into 33 languages and sold 20 million worldwide. I'd bet Joann has some.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/23

Just a few more hours until the worst of the heat wave is done, if the forecast is correct. Man, I used to do two-a-day football practices in this kind of heat. Of course, I was a different person then. Speaking of football, it seems the ball in in the court of the NFL players union to get the lockout settled. I find it hard to sympathize with either side, although playing football for a living is brutal and likely shortens life. Phil Mushnick, writing in the New York Post, put it best. Before siding with the players, two questions had to be asked. One: how do they stand on forcing season ticket holders to buy tickets to pre-season games? And two: how do they stand on the PSL issue? In case you are unaware, a PSL is a license to insure the privilege of owning a seat. One must be purchased in addition to the seats themselves. They are at least ten thousand dollars. I doubt the players object to these practices. Like the government and unions, players and owners will squeeze the public for all they can. Fortunately for them, there are still enough wealthy people out there willing to pony up. Only the rich and union workers, particularly those in government, can afford to go to games regularly.
Rest in Peace Amy Winehouse, 27. I've never heard any of her songs, but I understand she was very talented. I just wasn't able to get past her in your face appearance. There seemed to be a beautiful girl underneath that hard surface. I hope she finds the happiness that eluded her on earth on the other side. What a shame.
Thanks to the folks at Toluna surveys for the check that covered today's expenses.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/21

102 degrees. Wow. I'm not sure I've ever been where the temperature was higher. I hitch-hiked to California in the summer of 1971. I guess it may have been higher there or in Vegas, but I was a 21-year-old bull back then. Heat didn't bother me. Cold always has. Whenever I'm tempted to buy an air-conditioner, I remind myself of the electric bills some of my friends have. Meanwhile, Steve, a retired teacher and poet, has some kind of deal in his building where he pays a maximum summer surcharge of only $50 or $60. How does someone with such a generous pension qualify for such a break? Business as usual in New York City.
Since I no longer spend any time on the subway or at the ice-box that is the Exchange trading floor, I have to deal with the heat all day, and it hasn't been easy, which shows how spoiled we are in America. Anyway, as soon as I finished editing Chapter Ten of Bob Rubenstein's The White Bridge, about high noon, I headed for the library, book in hand. The AC was set just right, not maxed. I spent an hour-and-a-half there. I had to laugh as I spotted one of my regular customers, Herbie, looking through the shelves as meticulously as he looks through the books I display. He did not find anything to his liking. He may have gone through the entire catalogs of the authors he prefers.
A heavy-set woman who passes me every day asked: "Aren't you the guy who sells the books?" I said it was too hot to set up shop. She carried on a conversation with a friend and was shushed twice by a middle aged man who had notebooks and text books spread before him. She countered that he had spoken on his cell phone just minutes ago. True, but it had been brief. I believed the guy was in the right. The conversation certainly disrupted my concentration. Cell phone rings were sounding every few minutes. I was surprised at how loud they were. Of course, many elderly need them at maximum volume. No one on the staff said anything to anyone.
To make the day seem productive, I burned an Ultimate Jazz CD (12 tracks, 60 minutes), which together with an Ultimate Sinatra and an oldies disc, I will offer when the floating bookshop reopens, which I hope will be Sunday under the tree at Bay Parkway and 85th Street, when the temperature is expected to reach only 93.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/21

Well, it's as hot as the weather people predicted. I felt moisture on my lip during my morning walk and that had never happened before. So it was a day of light work. I edited Chapter Eight of Bob Rubenstein's The White Bridge, and I'll do Chapter Nine in a while. Jack Ruby, nicknamed Sparky as a teen, is part of the novel. Bob believes Ruby is/was a relative of his.
I usually wait until a rainy day to visit the recycling room at Stop n Shop. Given the heat, I figured it wouldn't be too crowded. Sure enough, I was alone in there, except for a roach crawling on the machine I was using. Then I went to the customer service center. I'd lost my discount card, which accumulates points toward a gasoline discount at Shell, which Wanda, a cashier, pointed out to me. I thought all it would take was typing my phone number into the computer and I'd have a new card issued immediately. Not! I needed a receipt. I wasn't too thrilled about having to walk home and back, but every dollar counts these days and, since the floating bookshop is closed until the end of the heat wave, there was no better time to get it done. I first had to move the car for tomorrow's alternate side regulation. What fun it was to sit inside it!
On to politics - the President has raised 86 million dollars for his 2012 campaign war chest, which shows there is a lot of insanity in this country. When I heard this, a perfect solution for the debt crisis occurred to me. Since he is so adept at attracting cash, why doesn't he run a telethon to fund his Socialist agenda? I can picture him taking a cue from Jerry Lewis, gazing into the camera, a tear falling from his eye, as he pleads for funds. The TV crew could follow him to a basketball court or a golf course, and viewers could place wagers on whether he would hit a jumper from the top of the key or sink a ten-foot putt. Whatever.
Isn't raising the debt ceiling akin to giving booze to an alcoholic? Unfortunately, I cannot foist all the blame on the current administration. Pseudo-Republican George Bush was a spendthrift, although Obama, of course, has made him look like a tightwad. What are the odds that the current crop of Republicans will abandon their principles, proving again we have largely one-party rule? Ugh!
On a positive note, I burned an Ultimate Sinatra CD this afternoon, 17 songs, 57 minutes. I'm testing it as I write this. Now playing, the haunting "It Was a Very Good Year." Every year is good, despite the politicians.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/20

I had a couple of more nice surprises at the floating bookshop. There was a cool breeze today I had not expected. And I sold a copy of A Hitch in Twilight. As soon as Carole, a resident of Brighton Beach, heard the first story in the collection, The Man in the Box, is set there, she was hooked. The other day Mark, a teacher at Sheepshead Bay HS, told me how much he related to the story because he used to smoke pot with his buddies under the Boardwalk back in the day - at the very spot where the action occurred. Years ago there was space under the Boardwalk, which the Drifters made famous in that great 60's song. That space has been filled with sand to keep out, I presume, the riffraff.
Susan continues to be good to me, purchasing two more children's books. She mentioned the fact that Borders bookstores will be closing soon. It is my belief that down the road there will be only a few super Barnes and Nobles type stores. I doubt physical books will become as rare as vinyl records, but their numbers will decrease significantly. I can't imagine myself ever going to an electronic reading device, but I have no objection to this evolution. I believe in letting the market decide, unlike the totalitarians in congress who would dictate which light bulbs will prevail or that everyone must purchase health insurance.
I also thank the young home attendant who passes daily with the wheelchair-bound senior gentleman in her care, who this time purchased Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes. She got her money's worth. It must be 1000 pages. And thanks to the elderly woman who donated three pristine hardcover thrillers.
The shop will probably be closed the next three days, as killer heat kicks in. I will have time to make a big dent in the editing of Bob Rubenstein's The White Bridge. And I'm thinking about burning Ultimate Sinatra and Ultimate Jazz CDs for sale. They will be a steal at five bucks.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/19

As the great Irving Berlin wrote way back in 1938 (and no I was not there, wise guys): "We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave...." And it's schedule to get worse starting Thursday. So it was a pleasant surprise when I actually did some business today. It started immediately with the Merry Mail-Woman buying Sue Grafton's T Is for Trespass. Then a mustachioed young man named Sam purchased a bunch of children's books, and Susan, who has become my steadiest customers, took two more. And, just before I was about to close up, a young man stepped off the bus and noticed the two High School Musical novels I had on display. All except the Grafton thriller were part of Adam's large donation, as was Good Italian Cooking, which a Russian gentleman purchased yesterday. I hope he didn't get a hernia. That sucker was huge and heavy. Thanks, folks. I celebrated by buying an ice cream pop at CVS.
I'm starting to get a handle on Bob's second novel, The White Bridge. In Chapter Six he briefly brings in blues great Blind Lemon Jefferson, singing on a street corner, in what is almost a chapter within a chapter. I had to figure out how to make his presence seem unforced. I decided to have his female companion smart off to the social worker who is the main focus of the chapter. I think it works, although Bob has him playing guitar and singing during a snow storm, which is designed to highlight the poverty of the times but which seems far fetched. Anyhow, at least the task has become more enjoyable.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/17

Congratulations to Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, 42, who won the British Open on his 20th try, five years after his wife succumbed to cancer. That tiny country has produced three of the last six major titlist (Grahame McDowell & Rory McIlroy). Which is the more spectacular - that fact or the way South Korean women are dominating the women's tour? Clarke finished five under, holding off Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson by three strokes. Only four golfers finished under par, as the usual conditions, wind and rain, wreaked havoc with the field. Thomas Bjorn was -1. Reports noted that Clarke was smoking as he walked the fairways of the Royal St. George course in Sandwich, England, despite his wife's death to cancer. Hey, he's a human being. Well done, lad.
My mindset was pessimistic today at the floating bookshop. I think I'm letting the difficulty of editing Bob's second novel affect me. I'm three chapters into a second flush, and while it's a bit easier, it's still a bear. I was bolder the deeper I went into it, so I'm hoping it will become easier still.
I was sure I wasn't going to sell anything today. I spent the first hour peeling bark from the tree that provides much needed and appreciated shade. Then a Russian gentleman, fresh from the Chase ATM, stopped and signaled his teenage son, who was seated in a car. I asked the kid what he liked to read. He'd just finished Irwin Shaw's blockbuster, Rich Man, Poor Man. I didn't really have anything of that type, but his father was kind enough to purchase thrillers by Scott Turow, Michael Crichton, Ed McBain and Tom Clancy, and two children's books for his daughter. Spasibo, sir. And thanks to the young woman who seconds later bought a book on healthy cooking.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/16

I had a nice surprise at my sister's, where I check in every Saturday and do the laundry. They had shrimp oreganata last night, thinking my great niece/godchild, Daniele, would gobble it up. She had only two, and I got the leftovers. Not only was it an unexpected feast, it saved me money. I would have opted for one of those tasty crispy chicken salads at McDonalds. So I was ahead of the game even before I opened up the floating bookshop. Business was a far cry from last Saturday's surprise, but it wasn't a shutout. Thanks to the woman who bought Mary Higgins Clarke's I Heard That Song Before, the bank employee who took Patricia Cornwell's Blow Fly, and the gentleman who purchased the lovely pictorial, Growing Up With Science, which focuses on invention.
I set up under the tree on Bay Parkway between 84th and 85th Street. I'm not nearly as tough as I used to be, just one of the changes I've undergone along the way. I was once able to stand in the sun for hours. I now will not do business where there isn't shade. I wear a hat and sunglasses, at which I used to scoff. How I hate wearing a hat! If I hear a siren approaching, I cover my ears, despite the looks it draws from some. When I get home I immediately douse my head and neck with cold water. I used to take a hot shower no matter what. I now take a cool one on hot days. I would inwardly scoff at people who carried bottled water. I now resort to it sometimes. I wouldn't leave the house unless I'd played the guitar for a half hour. I now eschew it when running late, with only mild guilt. "It doesn't matter," I tell myself, reducing my priorities to a few, chief of which are getting more of my work published and more sold. I wonder if I'll ever get to the point of giving up on that too, ceasing the insanity of the artist's life, which Bob Rubenstein once kindly described (rationalized?) as "a fine madness." Things change.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 715

Adam's donation has already begun paying dividends. Before leaving the apartment, I took nine small books approximately the size of a .45 record and nearly as thin, and a Spiderman comic. Each focused on a teaching point such as Friendship or Truth. I hoped Susan, who has purchased many books for her grandkids, would be passing this gorgeous day. Sure enough, there she was as soon as I approached my usual nook. She took the whole batch. And good thing she did - I had only one other customer the whole shift, a woman who couldn't resist Jackie Collins' steamy Poor Little Bitch Girl, although she has scores of unread books at home. Thanks, ladies.
Fortunately, Bob Rubenstein showed up. We conversed for at least an hour. I'm editing his second novel, The White Bridge. I've done the first 32 chapters, aiming for clarity and an improvement in prose. He doesn't seem to mind my criticism. The story is good. It just needs to be told better. He had a real scare recently, falling down a short flight of stairs. Luckily, he suffered only bruising to the upper thigh and hip. He took such a flop that the bottle of Snapple he was holding flew well clear of him, or he may have been cut as well. That kind of thing at his age, at least 65, can really lead to a collapse in quality of life. He believes God was with him. It must be nice to have such faith.
I caught up to Unstoppable (2010) last night, courtesy of Netflix. I was surprised. It was a different kind of thriller. I expected crime and hostages, but it was a simple story of an unmanned runaway train threatening towns in southern Pennsylvania. It had an air of authenticity, as if the writer, Mark Bomback, had done his homework. The director, old pro Tony Scott, did an excellent job maintaining excitement, especially since the outcome was obvious. And is there a better action hero in films today than Denzel Washington? Chris Pine, who did so well as Captain Kirk in the latest version of Star Trek, lent able support. The real surprise was the lovely Rosario Dawson, a New York City girl, who was completely credible as the trains coordinator. On a scale of five, I rate this film three-and-a-half.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/14

On Tuesday it was as hot as the dickens, yet I sold several books. Today was picture perfect, and I sold only one - Francis Hodgson Burnett's enduring children's novel, first serialized in 1910, The Secret Garden. There's just no explaining it. Thanks, madam.
Yesterday, as my great niece/godchild, Danielle, and I were leaving the old house, I asked her to program my cell phone number into hers, in case we got separated on the crowded streets of Manhattan or the subway. I waited until we were outside lest her grandma, my sister, freak. Of course, there was something else in the back of my mind besides the possibility of being lost in a crowd. No one knows when the next terrorist attack will occur. Hopefully the monsters will never make it to our door again. I wasn't taking anything for granted.
I hadn't been on the subway in two years, the last time I set up the floating bookshop in the city. The results were not worth the hassle, no different from what I get in Brooklyn, where I can at least park for free.
Cell phones are great, but, like anything else in a free society, they are abused. Or maybe that's just a sign I'm not as sociable as I should be. People pass constantly with a phone pressed to an ear, oblivious to all else. I don't get it.
There was a bit of drama at the nearby bus shelter today. A middle aged Russian couple was bickering. The heavy set woman, totally inebriated, fell to the ground. Her companion (husband?) tried futilely to pull her to her feet. Someone flagged down a private ambulance, but the woman refused to go to the hospital, although she had suffered a cut to the forehead. "Nyet!" she said adamantly, waving a hand. The attendant did manage to help the companion get her onto the bench. Later, the guy, no doubt hammered himself but at least able to walk, had her up and tried to pull her along. Of course she fell, and he left her sitting there alone on the sidewalk. Many people stopped, concerned, but left when I explained the circumstances. Fortunately, EMS soon showed. When the woman again refused help ("Nyet!"), the team contacted the police. Eventually, the young officer assigned the task, speaking Russian, convinced the woman to go to the hospital. As we all know, things can get ugly on even the most beautiful of days. It's just life.
Thanks to my buddy, Adam, who just dropped off a massive donation of books.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 713

It was a great day. My great-niece/godchild, Danielle, is visiting from Jersey this week and today was my turn to entertain her. She'd never been to Times Square, so I thought it would be fun to take her there, to see the effect of standing at the "crossroads of the world" in the eyes of a girl a month shy of her 13th birthday. To my surprise, she took it all in stride, even when I laid the big surprise on her. As we approached the "Tickets" area, where prices of the unsold seats of the day's performances are cut in half, I asked if she would like to see a show. She looked at the computerized chart and picked The Addams Family. I was so happy she didn't choose Mamma Mia or Phantom of the Opera, which I saw and hated on DVD. Of course, the chart gave no inkling of the cost. I was hoping it would be in the range of $50 per. My mindset was 15 years behind the times, the last visit I had from my friends Judy and Jim and their kids, parents now themselves, who were in town from Michigan. We saw Les Miserables. The price for The Addams Family was $71 each plus tax. I was stunned. The price of her second and third choices, Mary Poppins and Catch Me If You Can were not any more reasonable, so I decided to play the good uncle, and The Addams Family it was. Fortunately it was great fun. The book by Roger Elice and Marshall Brickman was filled with laughs. Brickman collaborated on several Woody Allen screenplays: Sleeper, Annie Hall (Academy Award), Manhattan, and Manhattan Melodrama. Andrew Lippa wrote both the music and lyrics and, while none of the songs will ever likely become a standard, all were very entertaining. Roger Rees, who has a long list of great theater credits, was terrific as Gomez. America's sweetheart, Brooke Shields, played Morticia ably, wisely staying within her range. I'm always amazed at how competently some non-singers can sing. Of course, she was blown away by the real singers in the cast, but she did not embarrass herself. I will always root for Shields, who has been with us since she was a little girl and who seems like such a nice person. The real star of the show was Brad Oscar as Uncle Fester, at times reminding me of Gilbert Gottfried. A close second was Jackie Hoffman as Grandma. She had the best line. When Pugsley complained about her obscure literary references, she said something like: "You'd be all right if you stopped the damn texting and picked up a book once in a while." The parents in the audience cheered. Also fantastic was Rachel Potter in her Broadway debut as Wednesday. What a powerful voice. Of course, the musicianship, sets, costumes and effects were first rate, as is to be expected of the Great White Way. I guess the talent works best in the cold. The AC in the Lunt-Fontane was cranked to the max. Even Danielle, who lives in the coldest house I've ever been in, slipped her arms beneath her T-shirt.
How lucky we are to live in a world that offers light-hearted fare like The Addams Family as well as gut-wrenching work like Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. I bet you didn't know that Gomez took Morticia to see that great play on their first date - and that they laughed all the way through it! That wonderful  tidbit came early in the show. I was won over immediately. There were some adult references along the way, but I'm sure Danielle has seen bluer stuff on cable. I didn't know what to say about them, so I played dumb. Not a stretch, some might say.
Okay - vacation's over - back to work.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/12

I was questioning my sanity as I walked out of the building today. The forecast was for a heat index of over 100. I had a bottle of water with me, frozen overnight, that a lovely, light-skinned black woman gave me yesterday minutes before I closed up. She either lives or works in the area, passing me daily, always flashing a beautiful smile and saying hello. I set up the floating bookshop at my usual spot and stepped into the shade, where there was a nice breeze. I immediately realized it would have been stupid not to have come out. Sure enough, one of my mantras: "Take a shot," was soon proven again. Ned, a young man in his 20's, director of the Sheepshead Bay Bites and the Bensonhurst Bean websites, stopped by to chat. He asked if I were interested in doing a column and I begged off, citing the blog and the editing of Bob Rubenstein's book, The White Bridge, which may kill me before it's done. I have no interest in journalism other than reading the New York Post and scanning online headlines for anything I may have missed. I felt like a rat, even more so when Ned purchased A Hitch in Twilight. He's read the stories I have posted online.
Having mentioned Bob, I'm reminded of an item in today's Post. During WWII, so many Nazi soldiers were infected with venereal disease by French prostitutes that the high command ordered the making of blond, blue-eyed sex dolls to serve as a substitute for the real thing. Apparently, they were 30-40 years ahead of their time. The idea was rejected by the rank and file, who feared the disgrace of being captured with something like that in their possession. Did the Nazis have a lock on perversion or what? Of course, I immediately emailed the item to Bob, whose new novel has a lot to do with eyes of blue.
The sale to Ned would have been more than enough on such a hot day, but soon a cab rolled up to Waj's gyro stand. I recognized the driver, who has purchased books from me several times. He reads thrillers between calls. He chose four. Then Susan approached and purchased some children's books, including Lassie Come Home, for her grandkids. And a bit later a middle age woman stopped and stared at the sign I wear around my neck. I explained what was what, and she fished in her purse and came out with three dollars. She refused to take any books, as she isn't a reader. "For your grandkids," I implored. "I don't have anybody," she said abruptly, hurrying away. And for the second time during the shift I felt like a rat, as if I were being deceitful.
Thanks, folks, and to everyone else: Take a shot.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/11

7/11/11 proved lucky, given the heat and humidity. A local security guard, who has purchased several CDs from the floating bookshop, once asked if I had any books on music. I searched high and low, in vain, for a Bruce Springsteen songbook I was sure I hadn't sold. It had guitar tablature to all the songs from his first four or five albums. I'd learned Badlands, I'm on Fire and Because the Night, and probably attempted a few more that I gave up on, tearing the sheets out to make the process easier. The other day I noticed that the stack of books and old manuscripts I used to support the sagging center of my futon/bed had collapsed. Sure enough, the Springsteen book was among them, as well as a Best of Fleetwood Mac, from which I'd learned Rhiannon. I'd tried to learn Sara, changing the key, marking up those pages with a pen, but I gave up. Although the chords were easy, there were too many changes for my taste. I have to really respect a song's lyrics to work that hard. While I really like the totality of Sara, especially the emotion, I find most of Fleetwood Mac's lyrics unpolished, never rising above a B. Don't get me wrong, writing B lyrics is a great accomplishment. Songwriting is a bear. Any attempts I've ever made were comical. Fleetwood Mac has a fine legacy.
Anyway, the gentleman bought the books, despite their flaws, as well as Freeing the Natural Voice, which actor-singer Johnny Feets had donated. I even located the pages I'd torn from the Springsteen book. Thank you, sir.
Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Pirates who, for the first time since 1992, are above .500 at the All-Star break, ending an incredible run of futility.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/10

Our mailman doesn't show until 4:30, even later these days. Sometimes I don't check the box until the next morning. There were two pieces waiting for me when I returned from my walk, Sunday paper in tow. One was obviously junk. The other had no return address and a typical window. IRS, was the first thing I thought, or some other type of unexpected bill. To my surprise, it was a check from Charles Schwab for sixteen bucks and change. There had been a problem with one of their funds, and everyone who owned shares was entitled to compensation. I was hours from opening up shop and I already knew it was going to be a good day.
I rolled up to Bay Parkway at noon and, after a five minute wait, got the perfect parking spot right under the tree. All I had to do was drop the crates at the curb. And business came my way even before I was fully set up. Russian women were kind again to me today. The first bought two thrillers, including Joy Fielding's The Deep End, which I consider the most well-written of the mysteries I've sampled, but which wasn't in very good condition. Another bought Erica Spindler's See Jane Die. And a third bought The Private Life of Animals, a nice coffee table book, another of Arlynn's many donations. Spasiba, ladies.
Later, Bad News Billy showed - with good news. He was on his way to take his grandson to the beach. Before he did, he purchased the War of The Worlds DVD I'd earned at Zoom Panel surveys, and the remaining four children's books I had on display. Thanks, buddy.
And I got a good parking spot when I got home. I won't have to lug the stuff too far tomorrow. What a great two days. How does one explain such sudden good luck? There's no sense trying, I guess. Like the one or two fluke good rounds of golf that come per year, it's simply to be enjoyed.
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/9

Not finding parking near the Dolphin Gym on 24th Avenue proved fortuitous today to the floating bookshop. I set up under the tree on Bay Parkway and 85th and had spectacular luck. The percentages were overdue or, as author Monica Brinkman put it in the her novel, it was The Turn of the Karmic Wheel. I recognized Sue, a lifelong resident of Bensonhurst, immediately. Although we were never in the same class, we were contemporaries at St. Mary's Elementary School. That's not the only place I'd seen her. She worked the counter at a local deli and she is the cousin of five brothers who lived across the street and one house down from mine. When I told her Close to the Edge was set in the neighborhood, she bought it and said goodbye. I soon sold The Complete Guide to Design and Illustration, a beautiful coffee-table-like book, to a young man. Then I spotted Sue walking toward me. "Uh-oh," I thought. She'd read the first 15 pages and had returned for A Hitch in Twilight. I was surprised. I always hope strangers will buy Hitch first, as it is strictly a fun read that will in the least show the writing to be competent, whereas Edge is virtually humorless, downbeat, described by many as "disturbing," which I intended it to be. As we were gabbing, I asked if she were related to Paulie, an Exchange supervisor who became a  commodities trader. He was another of her cousins, who, tragically, died of cancer at about age 50. Still another of her cousins is a guy affectionately known in that lunatic asylum as Joe Piss for his frequent bathroom breaks in his years as a data entry reporter. He is a piece of work, someone who always sees the negative in everything, buys in to every conspiracy theory. "The glass is half full," I often told him at lunch, frustrated by his life view. He could not see it as anything but half empty, probably even a lot less than that. He found relief in food, which led to health problems, procedures, umpteen medications and disability. These days he is being sucked dry financially by his ex-wife, despite the fact that she is living with another man.
Sue is now working as a supervisor at the Department of Motor Vehicles in downtown Brooklyn. She has grown children and grandkids. As we continued to converse, a young man, here from Turkey only three weeks, stopped, mesmerized by the books, of which he bought six hardcovers. His English was surprisingly good for someone here such a short time.
After Sue left a gentleman approached to see what was what. Louis M. Gelormino is the author of The Gent's Prayer (Authors of Unity Publishing, 2005), an inspirational autobiography of transformation. He's had feelers from film producers, and publishers who want to release it on a wider scale. He surrendered two copies, one for me and the other to sell. Sure enough, I sold it to a young man 20 minutes later.
Thanks to everyone who made this a banner day.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/8

Things worked out well today. The cloud cover negated the heat, and the rain held off long enough for the floating bookshop to score some gains. Susan, a senior and regular customer, kicked things off by purchasing the H.G. Wells classic, The Time Machine, as well as a modern sci-fi novel whose title escapes me. Then a lovely young woman asked if I had anything with a psychological edge. I've grown so accustomed to selling books other than my own that I completely overlooked Close to the Edge. Duh! Chances are, given the way people are not spending, she would have passed, but my main reason in being out there is to promote my own work. Geez. Fortunately, she bought three books, including a non-fiction on forensic evidence and Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Moon. And, just before it started to rain, another Susan stopped by with a significant donation, lots of horror, chiefly Stephen King and Dean Koontz. She really went overboard. The bag was heavy and she lugged it a fairly long way. Thanks, ladies.
Are you hoarding incandescent bulbs, preparing for the ban on them scheduled to begin in 2012? I haven't started yet, hoping Congress will come to its senses and kill the law, which is ridiculous even by their standards. From the reports I've read, the new bulbs need time to reach full illumination and emit a light many have found lacking and unpleasant. And they cost four times as much! How so like politicians this edict is. It will benefit the few at the expense of the many. The winners will be GE and China. How infuriating that GE, in which I hold stock, has closed American plants that manufacture the old bulbs and opened one in China, where labor is cheaper. They stand to make huge profits from this government-mandated travesty. I am tempted to sell my shares in protest. So far I've resisted, fearing it would be a cutting off of the nose to spite the face. The new bulbs will supposedly save energy and last far longer. That remains to be seen. They are toxic, filled with mercury. There is a whole rigmarole to follow when one breaks. And, since they don't give off any heat, they are a danger in traffic signals in winter. They won't melt snow, so the signals get completely covered during heavy storms. At least one death has been reported because of this problem. How many of the famous unintended consequences will there be?
Speaking of H.G. Wells, I just received a copy of Steven Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds, courtesy of the good folks at Zoom Panel surveys. Thanks.
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/7

I was hoping 7/7/11 would prove lucky for the floating bookshop, but that was not the case, although I did sell Titania's Magical Compendium, a large, beautiful coffee table book that details and illustrates spells and rituals for those who wish to improve a love life. Thanks to the lovely young Asian woman who bought it.
It was hot out there today. Yesterday it was only humid with plenty of cloud cover and a nice breeze to negate the heat. I stayed in the shade the entire shift. My friend Bob has asked me a couple of times what I think about out there. "Pleasant thoughts," I say. Now that 99% of the writing I'll ever do is done, I don't think about it much. When I first began in 1975, it would not have been an exaggeration to say I thought of it every waking minute. As the years progressed I gained greater control of it and thought of it only occasionally while away from my desk. So I have to ponder other things to while away a slow shift. I often quip that the second best thing about being out there is girl watching, especially in summer when dress is more revealing and colorful. If I see a goth or punked-out girl, I sing an Iggy Pop lyric to myself: "I love you, Tuff Baby." When I see a teenager arguing with her mom in a foreign language, I'm reminded of Tom Petty's: "She was an American girl."
There's a nice Russian fellow, whose name I don't know, who lives in my building and greets me enthusiastically every time he passes. Sometimes he stops to chat. Today he warned of thunderstorms after six. "Who cares," he said - "I'll be drunk by then."
Rest in peace NFL Hall of Famer John Mackey, 69. He was the first modern tight end. He would latch onto a pass from Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas and literally run over the opposition. He succumbed to the effects of dementia. Pro football is a lucrative profession, but a hard one. I remember how devastated I was when I was cut from my college team in the spring of my freshman year. It may have been one of the best things that ever happened to me. It saved me from a lot of blows to the head. I suffered plenty outside of football and sometimes worry they will catch up with me, especially given what my mom went through the last 16 years of her life. I think about that sometimes, too, while operating the floating bookshop.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/6

Thanks to my buddy Herbie, who purchased Barbara Taylor Bradford's Being Elizabeth. I had the feeling he wasn't really interested in the novel. I think he was simply doing a mitzvah.
I was just listening to conservative talk show host Steve Malzberg, heard in NYC on WOR weekdays between four and six. As if customers of the airlines don't have enough to worry about - intelligence has discovered that the enemy is working on ways of surgically implanting bombs into terrorists. Everyone may now have to go through the x-ray machines. Let's hope the devices are detectable.
So what are we to make of the Casey Anthony trial? I did not follow it closely. I have low tolerance for sordidness that is real. I'm perfectly willing to accept what juries decide in such cases. Civil matters are another story. I think the payouts are insane, particularly in states such as New York that allow additional payment for pain and suffering. Anyway, anyone who commented to me on the matter seemed convinced of the mother's guilt, as did the hosts on WOR. Of course, it is perfectly conceivable that little Caylee was killed accidentally - but why the cover-up? I have no expertise in law - one does not earn a degree by watching Law and Order - but why wasn't there a conspiracy charge of some sort? It certainly seems someone was guilty of something. I don't fault the jury. The easiest thing the members could have done was render a verdict of guilty. Maybe the prosecution over-reached. Who knows? I wasn't that surprised, given the O.J. decision. I remember standing at the podium of the Gold Futures market that day in October 1995. We were located at 4 World Trade Center then. It was less than two years after the first terrorist attack on the place. Trading on the entire floor came to a virtual halt as we waited for the news to hit the screens. I was stunned.
Now, I suppose, there will come the inevitable cashing in on the event, that unfortunate aspect of a free society. How long will it be before there is a Casey Anthony "tell-all" on the market? Meanwhile, a beautiful little girl is dead. What a sin.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/5

I didn't make much money selling books today, but Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, paid me for editing his second novel, The White Bridge, although I haven't finished working on it yet. I didn't want to accept the money. I only wanted to be paid if he believed I helped him, even though it's been a lot of work. I consider it an exercise. Who knows, I may have to work on a publisher's proof of one of my novels some day, so I may as well stay sharp. It's a first draft. Few authors get it right the initial time through. I usually do five drafts and any number of proofs until I think a work is ready. It's a madman's endeavor. The first draft, which is 100% creation, is the most fun, of course. Thereon, the ratio of creation to work begins to reverse until the process becomes tedious.
Without giving too much away, Bob's book is historical fiction about dark secrets from America and Britain's past, pre-WWII. Familiar names such as Margaret Sanger, Al Capone, Carl Sandburg and Groucho Marx figure prominently. The novel has required so much work that I haven't been able to enjoy it. I've been doing five pages at a time, correcting grammatical errors, improving the prose, and making things clearer. Bob has a tendency to get ahead of himself. I'm trying to get him to slow down, which is not easy. Having begun his literary career so late in life - he's about 65 - he feels pressed for time. I hope I will be of help. Only one thing worries me - if I really knew what I was doing, I'd be a lot further along in my own "career." To bolster my confidence, Bob picked up a copy of Adjustments, opened it at random, and started reading, praising the writing. Fortunately, it sounded competent. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to the nice lady who purchased The Encyclopedia of Art, Volume One.
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Monday, July 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/4

The master plan produced paltry results today. Early this morning I drove my car to the Sheepshead Bay promenade, hoping to find a favorable parking spot for when I'd set up shop at mid-day. I did, right under a short tree in full bloom. I stood in the shade the entire shift, enjoying the breeze blowing off the water, where jet-skiers frolicked. Unfortunately, I had only one buyer, a gentleman who took Sara Conway's Murder on Good Friday (2001), set in the 13th century, and Charles Todd's A Matter of Justice (2008), set in the early 1900's. Thanks, sir.
I am amazed at how much quieter it is on the 4th of July compared to when I was growing up. Cops started cracking down at least a couple of decades ago. They put the kibosh on John Gotti's annual bash in Queens, and the crackdown seemed to spread from there. Most of us bought fireworks when we were kids. A Mat, 80 packs of firecrackers, 20 to a pack, was the most popular item. Others were Jap Rockets, Pin Wheels, Aerial Bombs, Cherry Bombs and Ash Cans, which somewhere along the line came to be known as M-80's. My favorite was the Silver Jet, which took off from the ground and soared high into the air, leaving a wake similar to a common fireworks display. Nicky Fasano, a Master Sergeant in the Army, stationed at nearby Fort Hamilton, would organize a Big Shoot, wherein we'd set off packs of firecrackers consecutively for as long as possible. The people one block up, "the other Bay 37th," between 86th Street and Benson Avenue, did us one better, throwing entire Mats into a burning barrel. Some of our neighbors hated the racket, which would go on until ten-eleven PM. They would arrange their vacations for that week or go away for the day. Now all of that has been replaced by the Macy's fireworks show, and others. Coney Island has resumed a weekly summer display every Friday night. I can hear it from my apartment. I'll never forget the sight in the 50's and early 60's of crowds lined up all along the corners of Bath Avenue, gazing toward the famed amusement area a mile-and-a-half away, marveling at the colors that filled the sky. That view was lost to a building boom that brought high-rise apartments to the neighborhood. It was something to see. Brooklyn was a helluva place to grow up. We were lower middle class stock, but privileged.
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/3

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Enjoy the holiday that so many have given their lives to preserve.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/2

I had a nice surprise today. Now that temperature becomes a problem for the floating bookshop, I seek places where there is shade. Today I set up on Bay Parkway and 85th, as I did last Saturday and most Sundays, but further down so that I can stand under a big tree. Of course, this eliminates one problem but introduces another - the potential to get hit with bird poop. Fortunately, that didn't happen today. The surprise was Jack, an employee of Chase bank, who purchased eight books last week, buying five more. Moments later a pregnant woman with three kids in tow, each sucking on a colorful Slurpy, bought two Nora Roberts novels. And soon Joanne showed up with another large donation, both hard and soft cover. Thanks, folks.
My buddy, Bags, has gone on a much needed extended vacation. Before he left, he loaned me a couple of discs of the Rawhide TV series, which ran from '59-'66 on CBS. It has two huge claims to fame: Clint Eastwood as a regular and a fabulous theme song, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington, rousing vocal by Frankie Laine. Of course, it has been playing in my head constantly. Bags even had his elementary school students singing it on a field trip.
Frankie Laine, an underrated singer, is a paisan, real name Lo Vecchio. He specialized in movie themes. The one I remember most is the comic Blazing Saddles. Ned Washington is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He wrote When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio, 1940), Do Not Forsake Me, Oh, My Darlin' (High Noon, 1952), and Town Without Pity (1961). All were done with Tiomkin, a Hollywood legend. In addition to these and many others, Washington wrote the lyrics to Hoagy Carmichael's beautiful The Nearness of You (1938), which Nora Jones covered so touchingly on her monster debut album, and which brings a glaze to my eyes whenever I hear it. What a legacy. I've always maintained that lyric writing is harder than prose, either fiction or non-fiction. I am amazed at what Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Ned Washington and others can accomplish in three minutes.
"Ride 'em in - Rawhide!"
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Friday, July 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 7/1

I didn't do much business today, but at least I walked away with something. Thanks to the Russian woman who purchased a Barbara Taylor Bradford novel and the woman who bought some children's books, and the guy who went on for a half hour on religion. Born in Israel, his family came to America when he was five. He now repudiates (he used much stronger terms) Judaism and follows a faith he claims to have learned directly from its founder, with whom he spent a summer. It blends the elements of all the major religions and does not hold any one above another. The guy is either a genius or one skilled B.S. artist. He asked several times if I understood what he was saying. "Vaguely," I said, which is more than I understood what he has told me in the past about the printing technique or language he has developed on the computer, which he has had copyrighted.
I caught up to The Social Network (2010), courtesy of Netflix. When I first heard of it, I wondered how in the world it would measure up to the praise which had been heaped on it. The story of the founding of Facebook, which I love, just didn't sound that interesting, especially coming from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose works often have an extreme liberal bias (A Few Good Men {1992}, The West Wing). Fortunately, party politics and leftists teaching points were completely absent from the scenario. It concentrated on the characters in dispute over who deserved credit and compensation for the idea. Its rapid fire dialogue was reminiscent of the Hollywood screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's, although the humor was far subtler. Its two-hours moved swiftly, the action alternating between the founding years and a hearing in the present to determine the winners and losers. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, an obnoxious genius, and Andrew Garfield, as his only friend, were excellent, as was Justin Timberlake as the outrageous hustler who founded Napster and contributed largely to the popularization of Facebook. Rooney Mara shines in a small role as a wonderful girl Zuckerberg loses. Grand-daughter of the owner of The New York Giants, she will be the lead in the forthcoming American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It will be interesting to see how she compares to the powerhouse performance of Noomi Repace of the Swedish version. David Fincher will direct, as he did The Social Network. He has a good track record: Se7en (1995), The Fight Club (1999) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) among others. On a scale of five, I rate The Social Network three-and-a-half.
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