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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/31

It was another gorgeous day in Brooklyn. I put out Stephen King's The Dead Zone for the first time today and a gentleman scooped it right up. I was surprised, given how long it's been around and the fact that there has been a movie and TV show based on it. And the knitting books continue to be popular. I sold another to a Russian lady who looked at me as if I were crazy when I said it was a dollar. And my buddy Alex, a local beat poet, bought Philosophy on the Go, which is more humor than deep thought. Its cover features a philosopher, fully clothed, sitting on the potty. I suspect that Alex wasn't really interested in the book, that he was simply being kind.
A middle aged Russian gentleman stopped by on his bike and handed me two books in his native tongue, which I sold minutes later to an elderly woman. One thing I love about the look of the Russian books is that they forgo a book jacket in favor of a colorful emblazoning on the cover. I imagine it is more cost efficient, but I don't know for sure. Although most book jackets are beautiful, I'm not a fan of them. They are irksome to deal with while reading, and they sometimes get lost, which leaves only the drab cover beneath it. Then again, what really counts is what's between the covers.
Recently, another middle aged gentleman, who lives in my building, asked if I sold Russian books, and offered to give me some. I have a feeling he feels sorry for me. Apparently, he doesn't know I'm independently wealthy. Anyway, he is an ordinary looking, well-mannered man who has a beautiful family, a wife who has an aristocratic, though down-to-earth, look about her, and a daughter who my friend Arlynn described perfectly: "Such grace." She is a mom to teenagers herself now and continues to live on the premises, in another apartment. Whenever I see her I picture the balls in Tolstoy's great novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. I imagine her wearing those white gloves that go all the way to the elbow, a glittering necklace around her delicate throat. I hope her husband appreciates what he has. I can't conjure his appearance at all.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/30

It was another beautiful day in the post-Irene era. It appears our only casualty of the storm was Waj's gyro stand, which has disappeared. No one has any information on why. Perhaps it was hauled away after suffering damage, or maybe its license expired, or maybe the owner decided the income no longer justified its presence, which seems unlikely, as business was brisk. One woman wondered if it meant a terrorist attack was imminent. One guy who passes every day spouting leftist views to total strangers told me the owner believes women who work should be killed. It sounded as paranoid as most of his rants. I have no idea what Waj's politics or beliefs are. I never heard anything in that respect coming from that stand, which offered tasty food at bargain prices. Full disclosure: when I first started buying meals there I did wonder if the owner would one day get the order to poison the ingredients. It is a mad world, and no one is madder than the mullahs.
For the second day in a row I got a visit from a man I often suspected was homeless. I'd guess he is in his 60's. He always appears unkempt, full beard untrimmed, hair long and wild. Today he went into his background. I had a hard time following, but I learned he was alienated from his family, did not attend the funerals of either parent or his sister, who left her estate to him. He believes his financial adviser is stealing from him. He also collects Social Security. He recently broke with a friend of 40 years, who married so that a woman could earn citizenship, a woman who bankrupted his entire family and left him an embittered recluse. He also mentioned a wild day in DC, when he and his drug addled friends took it into their heads to go hear a speech by Martin Luther King. He did a massive amount of LSD and then Thorazine to come down from the high. Perhaps this explains why he spent time in an institution. He went on for at least a half hour, dropping the F-bomb repeatedly and apologizing for his French. I hope this isn't going to become an every day thing. I've been expecting a certain woman, who appears mentally ill, to talk to me. She frequently stops in the vicinity of the floating book shop, places her heavy bags at her feet, and stands in a locked pose for minutes at a time. Waif-like, she always wears the same type of flowing dress, reminding me of characters out of the work of Charles Dickens. She seems about 50. I suspect she was once quite attractive. One day she circled the area between a telephone pole and a mailbox many times in succession. I haven't seen her speak to anyone. It's sad and creepy at once. I hope she isn't living alone. Perhaps these two see me as a kindred spirit. Who else but a nut would try to sell his fiction on the street?
On a completely different note: Did you know that there is a memorial for the winners of The Medal of Honor? Neither did I. Appropriately, it's in Valley Forge, and it's in need of repair. If you'd like to make a donation, visit:
Thanks to the woman who purchased six books for her children, one of whom has been reading since age two! He was reading the Tropicana advertisement on the side of the bus shelter, aloud, when his mom spotted the books.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/29

As I exited Stop n Shop early this morning, the music of Rogers and Hammerstein, from their classic Oklahoma, entered my mind: "Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day, and I've got a beautiful feeling everything's going my way." The sky was blue, the temperature was clear, the humidity gone. And no rain-sodden tree had fallen on my car. Later, as soon as I had set up shop, a Russian gentlemen overpaid for thrillers by Stephen King, Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen and Clive Cussler - and he asked how often I was out there, which means he may return. Spasibo, sir.
John and his wife showed. He's a retired teacher who spends most of the summer upstate. Years ago he  self-published a couple of novels through a printer, and was dissatisfied. He is trying to find a home for his third and has sought my advice. I suggested, which he fears will edit his work. I said it was unlikely unless it demonstrates advocacy of racist policy or deviant sexual practices. His book is a thriller. I think it's safe from the big blue pencil writers so loathe. I also told him it was possible to publish through He was so appreciative he bought the huge hardcover edition of Stephen King's It, which I was glad to see go simply because it weighs so much. 
I also did business with three pre-teens, who were thrilled to learn children's books were three for a dollar. In a pleasing bit of democracy, each selected one. Thanks, kids. And thanks to the middle aged woman who purchased Dean Koontz's Whispers. The only disappointments of the day were the two potential customers who looked at and passed on A Hitch in Twilight. The second, a gentlemen of modest means who has made many purchases at the floating bookshop, asked how I would rate my books on a scale of one to ten. I refused to do it, saying only that they were well written, professional. He read about three pages and did not comment. Oh, well - maybe tomorrow.
I'm listening to Martini in the Morning, a station specializing in standards. Now playing: the great Judy Garland singing the Harold Arlen-George Gershwin standard, The Man That Got Away, composed for the film A Star Is Born (1954). "...The road gets rougher, lonelier and tougher...." A work of genius, perhaps the greatest torch song ever written. The track on Live at Carnegie Hall is unbelievable.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/28

By the time Irene arrived in Brooklyn she was no longer a hurricane but a tropical storm. I took a brief walk at around ten and another at noon. By then stores were starting to open. I was able to get the Sunday paper at the convenience store at the end of Sheepshead Bay Road, which faces the water. There were people out and about, but not as many as usual. I saw little damage. There was a lot of debris, mostly leaves and twigs. What surprised me most was the lack of puddles, especially at certain street corners where the sewers always back up. Perhaps they had been cleared ahead of the storm. After Katrina and last winter's blizzard, government seemed determined to get the response right this time. I did not see any downed trees, which was surprising not because of the high winds but because the ground was at the saturation point even before it started raining. In terms of damage, a thunderstorm two years ago did far more, tearing huge trees from their roots all along the Ocean Parkway promenade. I saw none there today. In fact, I did not see anything more than two large broken branches until I turned the car onto my old block, where one of the younger, thinner trees had snapped in half. Fortunately, there wasn't a car under it. The basement to the old house had taken in hardly any water. Of course, my laundry was still damp. It almost always is during warm months. Only in winter, when the heat is blasting, do the clothes dry. There were no obstructions on the roads. One traffic light was out. Our building got off easy. The custodial staff must be thrilled. There wasn't any debris on the sidewalks of the complex. The garage escaped flooding. Further up the street, in the middle of the block, a private house and large apartment building that stand side by side were each pumping water from the basement. It's still pretty breezy. I have only one concern left. I could not resist taking a parking spot advantageous to the floating bookshop. I won't have to lug the crates very far tomorrow, provided the old trees surrounding the car don't keel over between now and then.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/27

I went for a walk at three. The rain was light. It's been sporadic so far. It seems Irene has slowed. Yesterday the brunt was predicted to strike from 5 PM to 5 AM. Now it looks like the worst will occur from midnight on. A lot of people in the building have put tape on their windows. As I walked along Sheepshead Bay Road, I noticed that many businesses had done the same. The Bank of America, which has a large glass front, has been boarded up, likewise Waldbaum's, which was still open for business. Most of the small shops were closed. Even McDonald's was, but that may be because they have a grade pending on health inspection, as a sign in the window indicated. I love McDonald's, bought lunch at the one in the old neighborhood today, but the one on Sheepshead Bay Road is the most poorly-run I've ever seen. Anyway, there were few people on the usually bustling street. The parking lot of the popular El Greco Diner, directly across from the bay, was practically vacant. There was hardly anyone walking along the promenade, unlike most Saturdays.
I parked across from two small trees. If they fall in my direction, I'm hoping they only graze the car. Of course, nothing but luck will prevent damage from a flying object. I took the four copies of my books out of the trunk and glove-compartment, two each of Adjustments and A Hitch in Twilight, just in case there is flooding. Close to the Edge is temporarily sold out. The car is really the only thing I'm worried about. There are a lot of vacant spaces near trees. Still, some intrepid souls have not moved away from them. My apartment faces the courtyard, which has been cleared, and rarely gets any breeze, so I don't anticipate any damage to my windows. I wonder if the car will be salvageable if water reaches as high as the seats. All there is to do is wait and see. At times like these I recall a great line from Agent Scully on The X-Files. It went something like this: "My dad always said you better respect mother nature - because it has absolutely no respect for you."
Thanks to the folks at Synovate for the check, to Clear Voice Surveys for the amazon gift certificate, and to Pinecone Research, which not only added three bucks to my paypal account, but sent me two bottles of a new Snapple product to test. It's a cranberry-pomegranate white ice tea with reduced sugar, only 80 calories. I enjoyed the first, and will try the second with tomorrow's pasta - if the gas line hasn't been severed by the storm. I made a lot more money online this week than at the floating book shop.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/26

One way to get consumers to spend is to issue a hurricane warning. It is the talk of the town. All day long people passed the floating bookshop carrying bags laden with supplies, especially water. CVS is out of batteries. The line at the .99 cent store was out the door. Coney Island Hospital, a half mile down Avenue Z, is being evacuated. There was a flier under my door advising tenants to move cars to higher ground. Where that might be is anyone's guess. I'll be happy to find a parking spot away from trees and take my chances from there. Six to twelve inches of rain is predicted. The entire transit system will be shut down during the height of the storm. Authorities have chosen to err on the side of caution, no doubt recalling Katrina. I'll make my usual trip to Stop n Shop at seven AM tomorrow and hope there are some things left. It is reminiscent of a blizzard watch, when the shovels and melting salts sell out immediately. My flashlight doesn't have any batteries and I doubt I'll find any on the shelves. I have enough seltzer to last a few days, but not much food. We've had hurricanes before in Brooklyn. The only significant one I remember is Donna way back circa 1960. They actually curtailed classes at mid day at St. Mary's Elementary School and called parents to come pick up the students. I got a ride with Vera Morosco's uncle. I vividly remember him telling Vera's mom, who didn't seem too thrilled, to watch for falling electric wires. I thought he was over-reacting. I hope that will turn out to be the case with Irene.
The highlight of the day was seeing little Matthew, one year old, on his feet, clutching his mother's hand, smiling excitedly, blue eyes alive with joy as he stumbled along the sidewalk. Apparently he has no idea we are on the brink of doom. I wave to him each time they pass, and he has taken to waving back, with a little coaching from mom, who has the same blue eyes. Like my mom, she doesn't speak much English.
Thanks to the lovely Asian woman who purchased children's books. Batten down the hatches.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/25

We are all visited by sorrow. Some unfortunate souls experience far more than is fair. Such is the case with Delores Price, the protagonist of Wally Lamb’s first novel, She’s Come Undone (1992). The first-person account follows Delores (which translates to pain in Spanish) into her late 30’s. It is brutally honest. Although her anger is clearly justifiable, there are points in the narrative when it is difficult not to despise her as much as many in her sphere do. That’s what makes the book significant - the character comes across as real. There is a good person beneath all that pain and, overall, readers will likely root for her to emerge. The book was an Oprah selection, as was Lamb’s second novel, I Know This Much Is True (1998). He has written four, as well as two books of non-fiction. It is always refreshing to read serious work. My only quibble with She’s Come Undone is its bow to political correctness, particularly late in the story. Still, it errs on the side of decency. Since Delores is only two years younger than me, I recognized all the political, artistic and historical references in the book. The title was taken from a line in a song by Canadian band The Guess Who, Undun (1968), composed by guitarist Randy Bachman, who later left TGW and found comparable success with BTO - Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The Guess Who actually began as Chad Allen & the Reflections, before lead singer Burton Cummings, the voice behind its #1 hits (These Eyes {68}, American Woman {‘69}), joined the group. That first incarnation created a record way ahead of its time - Shakin’ All Over (1963), which has become one of my favorites. It has a wonderful eeriness (“Shivers down my backbone…”). It has been rediscovered and covered by several artists, but none of the versions compare to the original.
I’ve gotten off track. On a scale of five, I rate She’s Come Undone three-and-three-quarters.
With the threat of rain in the air, I did not open the floating bookshop today. There haven’t been more than few drops, but it is dark and gloomy outside and a severe storm is expected. Okay - I’m a wimp. The forecast calls for a nice day tomorrow, the calm before Hurricane Irene.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/24

I've been dreaming of  a certain someone quite a bit lately - the one that got away, I guess, who I haven't seen since October 2007. The dreams have been so pleasant, so nice to wake up to. It's like starting the day on a positive note. They have been about love, not sex. This morning's was particularly powerful. I was hugging her mom, apologizing for having married her daughter, who is 16 years younger than me. I also said I understood the way she felt and would probably feel the same way if I had a daughter in such a situation. The presence of the woman is even more fascinating in light of the fact that she died very young, that her daughter had never known her. In the dream the woman's back was turned. I did not conjure a face for her.
Later, as I was reading the newspaper, I got to wondering if my subconscious had jumped to an apology, not for that lost love, but for the fantasies I've been having about a 20-year-old amazon-like beauty who stops to chat at the floating bookshop while either on her way to or returning from classes at the New School in Manhattan, where she is majoring in philosophy. I saw her briefly yesterday. According to Freud in his Interpretation of Dreams, most dreams are triggered by an event from the day and are grounded in wish fulfillment. So I wondered if the two women had become jumbled in the code that dreams often are. There have been times, as she lingered, that I got the feeling she wanted me to ask her out. Get real, I'd tell myself; she's 40 years younger than you. Even if she was mistaken about my age by 20 years, it seemed a ridiculous idea. I thought I'd finally started looking my age, although several people have assumed my friend Arlynn, who isn't much older than me, was my mother. Anyway, my history in such situations is consistent - I'd probably talk myself into inaction, maybe even if she became as bold as many young women are these days.
No one can control fantasies. The mind never ceases to fascinate.
There was plenty of conversation today at the floating bookshop but no sales. I did get a large donation of books on knitting from a woman who said her daughter had gone on an incredible creative frenzy recently. Thanks, ma'am.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/23

I was leaning against a silver Acura that had parked beside the floating bookshop. I felt the car move and assumed the driver was about to enter. I expected him to berate me. To my surprise, no one was there when I turned. I figured a truck or speeding car had caused a vibration while I was day dreaming. A few minutes later a Russian gentleman who greets me with a fist bump and kind words each day said the shelves in Monica's Pharmacy had been shaking. He was sure it was an earthquake. I noticed people gathered in front of an eyeglass shop across the street, talking animatedly. A while later a young woman speaking into her cell phone as she passed, said: "Y'all didn't feel it?" An older woman who spends a few hours each afternoon in the library said the unoccupied chairs had moved. Dave, who has donated many books to me, said his whole building shook. He'd assumed it was a gas explosion. Tyra, a teacher whose apartment is on the floor below mine, said one of her wall fixtures moved like a pendulum. Later, I asked two of the staff in CVS if anything had fallen off the shelves. The manager said he hadn't even felt the tremor, the stockman said everything shook but nothing fell. Frankie, our building's stellar porter, was outside with his shopping cart and felt nothing. I turned on the radio as soon as I got home and was surprised to hear the quake had occurred hundreds of miles away, in Virginia. I had never felt one in Brooklyn. We have them, supposedly, but they are too slight to be noticed. My friend Dominick moved to L.A. the summer of '67. A few years later he was driving on a highway, pre-dawn, and saw the lights in the entire San Fernando Valley go out at once. In a letter to me he said he first thought an atomic bomb had exploded. We got a tiny taste of that today in the Northeast. Who'da thunk it? as we say in Brooklyn.
Thanks to my man Kofi, who continues to support me, buying Wonders of the Natural World, a beautiful pictorial, and to the two women doing God's work, escorting a group of handicapped adults, who bought several books each, and to Susan, my most faithful regular, whose elderly companion purchased a book on eating right for her. She gained two pounds recently, although it doesn't show. I guess the reason she is so slim is because she is so conscious of her weight.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn - Monday

I've been searching Yahoo News, trying to find something interesting to write about. I don't want to blog just for the sake of blogging. I try to avoid politics, which isn't easy sometimes, given the shenanigans. I vote, but my expectations are always very low, even when Republicans rule. Most eventually tilt left, endorsing pork to ensure their re-election. Some fall prey to corruption. So far I'm happy the Tea Party faction has adhered to principle, but I'm still leery they will eventually cave to the ways of Washington. I am intrigued by the field of Obama's opponents, especially Bachman, Palin (not announced yet) and Perry, but I remind myself that they are politicians vulnerable to all that politics entails. I bet most start with the best intentions, but then begin pandering to get re-elected in order to hold on to their privileges and perks. That's why I became an independent. Romney seems a RINO (Republican in Name Only), or maybe he just went along to get along in liberal Massachusetts. Who will trust him if he moves right? Who will make things less difficult for the dwindling population of Americans who cherish self reliance, which I view as the very essence of being American? Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a brilliant essay on the subject. The wonder of the internet brings his genius to the fingertips of people around the world. Just google it. I suppose few in Greece, France or Italy would take it seriously, but there are still a lot of Americans who would. I'm hoping the percentage is still above 50% and will grow. The others look to government to bolster them. An unfortunate few need it, most simply seek an edge or enjoy getting over at others' expense, and politicians are perfectly willing to cater to them, softening them up with a sense of entitlement. I don't know how any American can look at Europe right now and think that is the way we ought to go. Of course, there is always that small percentage who love to be contrary, like Groucho singing in Horsefeathers (1932): "Whatever it is, I'm against it." The most telling example of this is those Jews in Israel who oppose the existence of a Jewish state.
So it appears Gadafi has fallen. Only his lackeys will miss him. Now we will all wait and see if the outcome will be better or worse, as we are still waiting on Iraq and Afghanistan. It already seems the outcome in Egypt was worse.
I had only one sale today, The Encyclopedia of Knitting. The kind Russian woman would have bought more, but she was on her way to work - and that book was huge.
Rest in Peace Marty Butler, long time head of security at the Commodity Exchange. Thank you, sir.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/22

Today we celebrated the 13th birthday of my great niece/godchild, Danielle. She counted the money stuffed into her cards and has more than enough for a new ipod, her third. She asked her mom to take her to Walmart after the party. She suffered a lot of blond jokes. She is a bit of an airhead, although she gets good grades. Her mom says all her friends are the same way and figures there must have been something in the water when they all were born. Her brother, Ronnie Jr., has been spending five days a week at the gym, making himself stronger for baseball. He moves up to J.V. this year. His mom kept asking him to flex and finally broke him down. Making an impressive muscle, he said: "Got any tape? I'm ripped." We all laughed. I was reminded of the way my friends teased each other as teens, especially when we were caught admiring a tricep in the reflection of a car window. "You got some complex," we'd say. "I don't wanna hear it."
We started the feast with a tomato, provolone and prosciutto concoction dipped in olive oil, then went on to barbecued shishkebab: chicken, steak, onions and peppers, which was out of this world. We also had grilled veggies. I must be the only goombah who doesn't like eggplant. It went fast despite me. Then we had Italian cookies and, finally, a Carvel ice cream cake. I had two slices.
With the sky darkening, my brother in law started to panic, and suggested we try to beat the rain. We didn't. The trip back was an hour longer, 2:30. Neither music nor the lightning show helped pass the time. Traffic would move so much more smoothly if the rude wouldn't jump the line at merging ramps and bridges. Like a fool, I stay in the same lane, as if civility counted.
I'd left the laundry on the line in the basement. It was still damp, so I had to hang it around the apartment. It had taken me ten minutes to find parking. I was a block and a half from the building, so I got soaked. But I'm now at the computer and all is well again.
Happy Birthday Dani. We love you.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/20

My buddy, Bags, had a flood in his basement for the first time in 17 years last weekend. He has a sophisticated electronics system, wires running all over the place, TV connected to the internet. His PC went on the blink for a couple of days. He brought it to a local repair shop and it cost him only ten bucks to get it running again. When he tried to plug the entire system back in, there was a loud humming noise. Today I helped him isolate the problem. Basically, this amounted to holding a flashlight and lending moral support. He sorted through the dust and maze of wires, and tested each one by one, searching for the source of the problem. It came down to two possibilities: the graphic equalizer and the sub woofer. It was the latter, which had sat on a thin rug on the floor and whose bottom four inches was submerged. Of all the items, it was the one he used least. After unplugging wires from it, he had to figure out where to plug them in to get sound from his stereo, which isn't easily solved unless it's done regularly. That's where I left him when it was time to open the floating bookshop. I would have been no help, having no affinity for the electrical. On the recommendation of his Asian neighbors, he will be buying a pump. It's always best to be proactive. As was the case here, government services usually arrive long after the damage is done.
Jack, employee of the Chase Bank at Bay Parkway and 85th Street, purchased William Goldman's Magic, which was made into a movie released in 1978, starring Anthony Hopkins in one of his breakout film roles, long before he portrayed everybody's favorite pyscho, Hannibal Lechter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). He had done a lot of BBC work prior to that.
Jack has stacks of the thrillers he has bought from me on his desk. His presence attracted two other customers: a Russian gentleman who bought books for his seven-year-old grandson, and an Asian woman with two adorable daughters, who recognized a steal when she asked about the books on knitting and crochet. Thanks, folks.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/19

It was a fun day at the floating bookshop. Antonin, aka Mr. Su Do Ku for his book on the subject, was the first to visit. His head shaved, he looked like famous wrestler George the Animal Steele, who was a teacher and long-time football coach in Michigan in his alternate universe. I could barely withhold laughter. I had to avoid looking at him directly, waiting for him to say: "Hey!" He whipped out his smart phone and showed me video he'd shot the day before in Times Square of an artist doing a painting on the street. Then he showed a picture of a coffin. A friend of his died, which reminded him he too would die. He's about 75. I probably said the wrong thing: "It's one of life's sad truths - anyone can and will be replaced." Despite the faux pas, he smiled and shook my hand before leaving.
Young Sue was my first customer. She looked at A Hitch in Twilight a long time, but passed. She was ashamed to admit she isn't a reader, having read less than three books her entire life. She did choose a book on coping with divorce. She is one of its victims, as are 50% of the population.
Marie has donated about 80 CDs, which she'd secured when a friend's blues bar closed down. The most recent batch of ten, which included REM, Loverboy, Jeff Healy, Paul Butterfield and an early MTV compilation, went fast. Will, a local security guard, bought eight himself. I suspected he would.
Then Cabbie showed, parking his hack beside Waj's gyro stand. He took three thrillers and gave me his usual spiel about wasting my life, wondering how much gelt I actually make. He simply does not understand how or why anyone would adopt the artist's life - and who could blame him? It's a mild form of insanity, as Bob Rubenstein pointed out when he visited bearing fruit he'd just purchased. He shared watermelon, strawberries and pineapple, pre-cut and put on ice in plastic containers. It was nice and cold. Tomorrow he is off on another long train ride to New Mexico, with a stop in Chicago to meet a friend and hopefully visit some of the sites he mentions in his second novel, The White Bridge, for which he did extensive research. As we were conversing, seated on the ledge that surrounds the apartment building's garden, two women stopped and looked at my display. One bought a pristine hardcover edition of Nora Roberts' Birthright, the other three children's books, including a Judy Moody, for her healthy blue-eyed blond boys.
After Bob left, Esther approached. I didn't want to be cold, so I asked how things were going with her 32-year-old son, who owes her a lot of money and hasn't spoken to her in a long time. She went on for an hour. Her brother, Henry, also owes her a lot of dough. The guy offered to repay in installments and she refused, afraid she would lose track of the sums. I tried to explain that he might never be able to repay all at once and that she would probably recoup nothing if she didn't compromise. I think she understood, but I'm not sure. Fortunately, it was soon three o'clock, time to pack up. She might have gone on for another hour.
Thanks, folks.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/17

I sold only one book today, on crochet, to a repeat customer. Thanks, ma'am. I did, however, get a nice pay day from Bob Rubenstein, who is happy with the editing I've done so far of his second novel, The White Bridge. Thank you, sir.
I had fun last night viewing Where Love Has Gone (1964), based on the Harold Robbins novel, on DVD courtesy of Netflix. It is now notable for nostalgia rather than its once controversial issues of a 15-year losing her virginity and her artist-mother's myriad lovers. That stuff is old hat these days. What makes the film eminently watchable, besides the lush technicolor cinematography so typical of the era, is the cast: Bette Davis as the manipulative matriarch; Susan Hayward as the promiscuous artist; Mike Connors, star of the long-running detective show Mannix, as the husband-war-hero-architect; Joey Heatheron, 60's sexpot, as the troubled daughter; Jane Greer, star of film noir classic Out of the Past (1948), as a shrink; DeForest Kelly, Star Trek's Dr. Bones McCoy, as a critic; George Macready, who spent his career playing white collar slimeballs, as a lawyer; Anne Seymour, who made two appearances in the Classic 38 episodes of The Honeymooners; Ann Doran, who has 358 credits and appeared as the mother of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause (1955) and as Ma Kent in the Christopher Reeve version of Superman (1978); and the ubiquitous Whit Bissell, he of over 300 credits, as - what else - a professor! It was directed by Edward Dmytryk, who was one of the Hollywood Ten during the McCarthy Red Scare era. After spending months in prison, he agreed to testify, to name names, and lost the respect of his peers but continued to work. On a scale of five, I rate Where Love Has Gone two-and-a-half.
In the same vein, I recently borrowed the first disc of Wanted Dead or Alive (1958), which featured Steve McQueen as a bounty hunter and lasted three seasons. In the first episode Nick Adams and Michael Landon appeared as outlaw brothers. I don't know why I love this silly stuff so much. Forgive me.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/16

For the second day in a row a light shower had me close up shop early after a couple of sales. Thanks to the lovely Asian woman who bought a book on knitting and Every Four Years, a large pictorial about the American Presidency. And thanks to Global Surveys for the check and AOL Surveys for the Subway gift card. Nice day expected tomorrow - finally. Only good thing to say about the past three is that it was cool.
I don't know what it is, but food has tasted so good lately. I've never had a problem with my taste buds, so I don't get it. I've been almost orgasmic over a Progresso chicken soup, sans MSG, simple elbow pasta in Francesco Rinaldi's Tomato, Garlic and Onions sauce, and pizza. Maybe I stumbled onto the precise amount of pepper to add. May it continue.
I couldn't resist presenting the following excerpt, which must have environmentalists scratching their heads, culled from an article on by
Wind power is the fastest growing component in the state's green energy portfolio, but wildlife advocates say the marriage has an unintended consequence: dead birds, including protected species of eagles, hawks and owls.
"The cumulative impacts are huge," said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds. "It is not inconceivable to me that we could reduce golden eagle populations by a great deal, if not wipe them out."
California supports roughly 2,500 golden eagles. The state's largest wind farms kill, on average, more than 80 eagles per year. But the state is set to triple wind capacity in the coming years as it tries to become the first state in the nation to generate 33 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/15

The lobby had some puddles this morning that were gone by the afternoon. The other two buildings in the complex weren't as lucky. One has a nasty odor and inches of water in the laundry room. The maintenance crew had more work than usual today. My buddy, Bags, didn't fare too well, either. His basement was flooded. Fortunately, we haven't had much rain today. I set up shop at eleven and managed to sell a couple of thrillers to the Merry Mail-woman before a light shower forced me to vamoose. I didn't have the patience to wait it out. Sure enough, an hour later, while seated at the computer working on Bob Rubenstein's The White Bridge, the sun appeared and has since remained out. That's how the ball bounces sometimes.
Here's another example of how deep the cancerous entitlement mentality has taken root in this country. Actress Faye Dunaway has residences both in California and New York. Her driver's license was issued in the Golden State. Her NYC apartment is rent-controlled. She has been renting it since 1994 and pays $1048 per month. The market value of the flat is estimated at $2300. I don't imagine she is making tons of money these days. After all, she is now 70, but one would think she would have substantial savings from her salad days. And she has had at least one credit per year throughout her great career, according to IMBD. She may even be drawing Social Security. I suppose she could have lost a lot of money through bad investments. Her house in LaLa land is said to be modest, and she drives an '07 car, which is commendable. She is suing her NYC landlord, who is trying to get fair value for the apartment. She is claiming to be a resident, which is outrageous. Besides, whether or not she is a resident is irrelevant. If such a successful person qualifies for rent-control, who wouldn't? Only saps like me who bought a co-op and worked hard to pay it off in 13 years. Her son and another person are also listed on the lease. Divided by three, that would make the rent less than $800 each, a steal in the Big Apple. She is a wonderful actress (Bonnie and Clyde ('67), Chinatown ('74), Network ('76). She came back strong from the hosing critics gave her for Mommie Dearest ('81) - but she should not be able to get away with this.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/14

We're suffering a deluge in the New York City area. Some spots have had ten inches of rain - and it's supposed to continue for two more days! It's a good thing I have Bob Rubenstein's second novel, The White Bridge, to edit, otherwise I'd be wall-climbing. I concentrated on chores today, picking up the wash at my sister's, redeeming recyclables, dusting book shelves and vacuuming - what fun. At least I had the chance to watch a good chunk of the season's final golf major, the PGA. As usual, the last few holes provided great drama. Jason Dufner, a ten-year pro who has never won a tournament and who missed his last four cuts, had a four shot lead with four holes to play. He squandered it, as Ralph Kramden would say. It was painful to watch. He then lost a three-hole playoff to second-year pro Keegan Bradley, a St. John's alum, who followed a triple bogey on 15 with back to back birdies to keep himself alive. Congratulations, Keegan. Better luck next time, Jason. Great show, guys. Jim McKay said it best in the opening to the old Wide World of Sports show on ABC: "The human drama of athletic competition."
And sticking with the subject of golf and adding a literary spin, one of our All Things That Matter Press family of authors, Monica Brinkman, has a novel out titled The Turn of the Karmic Wheel. In it, characters who have prospered by exploiting others experience comeuppance. When Tiger Woods missed the cut this weekend, by a mile, I couldn't help but think the Karmic Wheel has turned against him. Monica would say he is suffering payback for his well-chronicled sins. I would like to believe that, although Tiger has a lot of money to cushion his fall.
There are those who believe in karma, those who would like to believe in it, and those who think it's bunk. I'm in the middle group, but I do believe I would suffer for any bad I might do. For several years, in a couple of novels and several short stories, I explored characters who were unafraid of doing bad. I wondered if they, the unethical, liars, cheats, pornographers, even killers - at least those who got away with their crimes - were living right, laughing at the rest of us who tried hard to be good, a good that would never be rewarded, especially upon death. There are days I still wonder if that's true. Bad behavior is so frequently rewarded by the media. Casey Anthony is only the latest example.
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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/13

I watch two DVDs per week from Netflix. I once had a long list of films and TV shows in my queue, more than a hundred. It's now more like 30, mostly new releases. Eventually, I'll have to re-watch the movies I liked most. The site has great variety. It lacks only one title I've been longing to see - The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), directed by B movie stalwart Budd Boetticher and starring Ray Danton. It is scheduled to be released August 31st. I can't wait, although I may be setting myself up for a big let down. I had the measles when it finally came to the Benson Theater in Bensonhurst, and then it just disappeared, despite good reviews. I don't recall it ever being shown on TV, maybe because it was shot in a 1920s style. It is rated 6.8 out of ten at IMBD.
Last night I got lucky with an obscure film I'd ordered, Le Trou (1960). It is about a prison break that occurred in 1947. Le Trou translates to The Hole. I found it riveting, although I recognized no one in the cast, one of whom participated in the actual break. It was directed by Jacques Becker, whose work I was completely unfamiliar with. It was shot in black and white and it is subtitled. The only drawback was that some of the early scenes went on a bit too long. It must have been intentional, as ensuing scenes were shortened. If you see it, you'll know what I mean. On a scale of five, I rate Le Trou four stars. The French made wonderful film noir in the '50's and early '60's, before the New Wave, movies I hate. I'm sure a lot of critics would laugh at my opinion. So what.
Thanks to the nice lady who bought three books today on Bay Parkway.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/12

I decided I needed a change of pace today - and it is exactly what I got - slower. I set up shop at the Sheepshead Bay Promenade, about a hundred feet from where my father, a fisherman in summertime, used to moor his boat. By the time an hour had passed I was kicking myself. It was lonely out there, unlike at my usual spot where many wish me well or stop to chat or donate books. I missed that. At least it was a gorgeous day. I spent nearly the entire time under a tree. Hardly anyone stopped. My only potential customer had nothing smaller than a fifty, which I couldn't change. It was the first time I didn't earn any money in a long while. The lone highlight was watching a grandpa tightrope along the edge of the stone barrier that encloses the bay, scooping crabs out of the water with a net attached to a long poll. His wife and four grandkids, three girls and a boy, trailed along on the sidewalk, fascinated by his prowess. The eldest girl was in charge of the bucket, which was half full. Are the crabs safe to eat? Who knows? The water is infinitely cleaner than 50 years ago when it had a greenish tint that reminded me of a laundry product named Jevelle. Boats may no longer be docked in the lower bay, below the pedestrian bridge that spans it and leads to the ritzy Manhattan Beach section. Occasionally, jet-skiers buzz through, but I don't imagine they leave much fuel behind. Oddly, no one swims in the bay any more. It was common in the '50's and '60's, despite the pollution. Young men would dive from the bridge in pursuit of coins thrown by passersby. Crossing, one had to be wary of getting gouged with a hook from a fisherman casting into the bay. No one fishes from the bridge these days. I wonder if it has been banned. I used the setting for two of my short stories: Rude Awakening and Mystery by the Bay. The area will always mean a lot to me. My mother and me frequently rode the bus there to greet my father. I can still remember how excited I'd get when I'd spot him in the distance at the helm of his little boat, and how disappointed when the inevitable arguments occurred. Boy, that was a long time ago.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/11

There wasn't much action on the sales front, but it was an interesting day nonetheless. As I was setting up shop, a tiny napkin fell out of one of the books that had been donated yesterday. Someone had written on it, a young woman, I'd guess. It was neat and the printing seemed to have a feminine lilt. It offered a glimpse into her heart. "I may shed tears now but I know happiness will be ours one day soon. I can't wait until you show me affection." And on the flip side there was: "I will not only shower you with affection, but I'll do it also with my love." I hope she got her wish. How refreshing to find someone who believes in love in this increasingly cynical world.
Bob Rubenstein stopped by. He showed me his royalty check for the previous quarter's web sales of Ghost Runners: $24 and change, which translates into at least 15 copies. He was disappointed. I was envious. I haven't had any web sales the last two quarters. I will resume editing his second novel, The White Bridge, this evening. He sent me the final few chapters this morning.
As I was hauling the crates back to the car, a middle age gentleman on a bike approached. His face was familiar, but it took me several moments to place it. Marin, who is of Romanian descent, purchased Close to the Edge about six months ago. He hated it. It took him two weeks to finish. He didn't like the story or the writing. This was the first bad review of any of my books I've ever had. A reviewer thought Edge was misogynistic but still rated it three stars. I'm more surprised when people tell me they like it. It is meant to be disturbing, delving into the darkness at the core of the soul of the characters. An old classmate of mine, who was too polite to say he didn't like it, said he felt as if the novel had put him through a ringer. I was happy to hear that. I admire Marin's honesty. I shook his hand and thanked him. Of course, such a review is a jolt. I reminded myself that another Romanian immigrant, Laura, a lovely college student, recently told me how much she liked the book. Naturally, I now wonder if she was telling the truth, wonder if I'm fooling myself about the works in which I've invested so much time and effort. On the bright side, Marin will not be asking me to edit his novel. I was so worried I wouldn't like it and was filled with dread imagining having to tell him. If that's karma, it's a weird instance of it.
Thanks to the women who purchased books on cooking and crochet today, and to the 84-year-old veteran who donated three thrillers.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/10

The Dow tanks again, riots in London, wilding in Philadelphia, Wisconsin and Chicago - with the world in such peril most things seem trivial, including writing fiction or selling books on the street. I don't recall if I was this concerned in the late '60's and through the '70's when many spoke of America's decline, which was wiped away by the Reagan revolution, which continued even through the Clinton years. I was young and strong then. Congress has created an entitlement mentality in at least half its citizens, weakening them. And woe to anyone who tries to amend it, let alone abolish it. People demand platinum benefits, as long as someone else pays for them. 50% of workers pay no federal taxes. Illegal aliens receive government services. I see the handicap riding wheelchairs in the street alongside traffic, scaring the bejesus out of drivers, despite the city having gone to the expense of making sidewalks accessible at every corner. Oh, well, if you're already or close to eligible for retirement, there is an exclusive community in Mexico where many Americans have gone to spend their golden years. With the cost of living spiraling, only idiots like me will remain here. I hope for free market solutions to our problems, but fear we will get only more government ones. Stay tuned.
And now on to the insignificant. I caught up with the Black Swan (2010) last night, courtesy of Netflix. I was not as enthusiastic about it as most critics were, although it was well crafted and beautifully acted by Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar. I found it relentlessly bleak. I've like other films that were bleak, but there is something about Darren Aronofsky's work that leaves me unsatisfied. I feel bad saying this because he is a Brooklyn boy. Then again, who am I to say? He is a tremendous success while I sell my books on the street. I found The Wrestler (2008), Pi (1998) and The Fountain (2006) all lacking. In the case of the latter two, it may be because Aronofsky is a lot smarter than me. On a scale of five, I rate Black Swan three-and-a-half.
I got an unusual donation from a woman today - about two dozen books on crocheting and knitting, and sold several of them at a big discount. Included in the batch was John Grogan's Marley and Me, about the world's worst dog, which a woman walking her own, Sunshine, bought. I also sold The I Ching and Mankind to Jack, a math freak, who goes off on tangents whenever he visits. Today he broached Einstein, rare pictures of Coney Island he may turn into a book, and handball. The cartilage in his palms is rock-like from years of pounding that little black ball.
Thanks, folks.
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/9

All Things That Matter Press published my short story collection, A Hitch in Twilight. It is run almost exclusively on the web by Phil and Deb Harris. They have issued almost 80 books. Most of the authors, including me, struggle for sales. If I didn't take Hitch to the streets, I'd have five web sales rather than the 99 overall I've managed to get thanks to the kindness of strangers. Phil's own novels seem to sell well, as do Jen Knox's two creative non-fictions, Musical Chairs and To Begin Again. Ken Weene's Memoirs from the Asylum is fine work, but I'm not sure how well it sells, ditto Bob Rubenstein's important Ghost Runners. Now it seems one of our authors has achieved a stunning breakthrough.
Melissa Studdard is a professor in Texas. This week her fantasy-adventure, Six Weeks to Yehida, made its debut and sky-rocketed up the chart at Amazon. It cracked the 2000 barrier overall and reached the top 100 in the children's and fantasy-sci-fi categories, a remarkable achievement. There are more than six million titles listed at Amazon. Way to go, Melissa, and continued success. Check out the book here:
A couple of weeks ago, Frankie, one of our building's stellar porters, gave me a box of books left behind by a tenant who had passed away. My Life by Bill Clinton had immediately caught his eye. He was sure it would sell. Well, the rascal was right. I brought it out for the first time today and a young man snapped it up. I'm going to miss Frankie asking about the book. I love the way his Dominican accent pronounces Cleen-tone. Thanks, amigo. Best thing, I no longer have to look at Slick Willie's mug.
And thanks to Susan, who purchased two books on diet before the rains came and curtailed business at the floating book shop.
Have you heard that European soccer power Real Madrid has signed a seven-year-old? From what I understand it does not involve money but training and airfare to and from his home in Argentina. "Curiouser and curiouser," as Alice said in Wonderland.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/8

I've been expecting a 5000 point decline in the stock market for some time. Not all at once, of course, but over the course of months. The Federal Reserve has done all it could to prop up the Dow, but the reality of the world economy may have finally settled in. It's getting scary. I hope I'm wrong.
I had only one customer today, a scrawny, scary-looking guy who frequently passes pushing a shopping cart. He has always been nice to me, so I had nothing to fear. I suspect he believes we are kindred souls. He scrounges around for junk, which he sells. He is twice divorced and takes care of his 78-year-old mom. I sense he is one of those high I.Q. guys who has trouble working for and with others, and trouble with alcohol. He frequently smells of beer. His teeth are rotted, his clothes soiled, his hands dirty. Yet, judging from the money roll he flashed, he isn't doing too badly financially. Maybe he'd recently cashed his mother's Social Security check. Anyway, he loves to read and bought four thrillers: Nelson DeMille's Night Fall, Stephen Hunter's Dirty White Boys, Dean Koontz's The Face, and Faye Kellerman's Stalker. Kellerman, an orthodox Jew, is the wife of best selling mystery writer Jonathan Kellerman. They are the only married couple ever to have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller's List simultaneously. The guy offered to buy me a beer, which I declined. I failed to ask his name. Maybe I'm afraid he'll expect friendship. I thank him. The crates were a lot lighter without those hardcover tomes.
A while later an elderly black man approached and asked something I did not understand. It sounded as if he were looking for the way uptown. Of course, there is no uptown in Brooklyn, only a downtown. He too was wearing soiled clothing. He had a plastic I.D. bracelet on his wrist. I wondered if he'd wandered off from a ward in Coney Island Hospital or another facility. I didn't know what to do. He soon went on his way and, hopefully, into the path of police officers at the train station.
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/7

Everything fell into place today. The rain held off, then I found a parking spot right under the tree at Bay Parkway and 85th Street. I was able to display the maximum number of titles. Of course, none of that matters if the public isn't interested. That worry was vanquished immediately by the lovely, sweet Irina, who bought A Hitch in Twilight. What a doll. Some guy is going to be awfully lucky. I hope he appreciates it. Spasiba, mademoiselle.
Next up was a middle age woman who has organized a lending library in her building. She purchased hardcover copies of Tami Hoag's Dark Horse and Jonathan Kellerman's Mystery. She said her daughter wouldn't touch any book that wasn't purchased new, afraid of who might have handled them. Maybe that explains the dearth of sales on the street. I mean, I carry the work of the most popular authors, almost all the books are in excellent condition, and I all but give them away.
Bad News Billy showed. He is behind on his rent. Of course, that didn't stop him from buying a collector's guide for his brother and a High School Musical novelette for his grand-daughter. I offered them to him gratis, but he wouldn't hear of it.
I hadn't seen Neil in a long time. A few years ago he interviewed me on the street for his wacky cable access show, DellaPeppo Village. He gave me a CD of his own music. I listened to some of it on the drive home. One song sounded like a natural for a Country artist. It's main lyric was: "You like to do it in the morning, I like to do it at night." Another track reminded me of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" Good luck, Neil.
The day was capped when a Russian gentleman asked if I had any books on art. As a matter of fact, among Omar the Friendly Porter's latest donation, there was one on perspective. When I told him it was a dollar, he seemed about to burst into laughter, as if I were so silly. I couldn't argue with him. There are days I stand out there feeling like a fool. Fortunately, today wasn't one of them thanks to these kind folks, especially Irina.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/6

I finally caught up with The King's Speech (2010), courtesy of Netflix. I was leery. A friend whose opinion I value thought it was over-rated. I disagree. I was captured immediately. The main reason it worked so beautifully is that it humanized the royals.
The Duke of York stammered. When his brother, King Edward, abdicated to marry a divorcee, George VI ascended to the throne. Although the royals by then, 1936, were figureheads with virtually no political power, they were history personified. The kings and queens of England advanced western civilization. Their pluses far surpassed their minuses. Even today they remain vital, as the weddings of Diana and Will and Kate attest. So it was imperative for the king to conquer his impediment and rally the nation against the evil of Hitler.
The cast is a dream for world cinema buffs. Colin Firth was fantastic as King George. Geoffrey Rush did his usual excellent work as the eccentric therapist. Helena Bonham Carter beautifully understated her role as the King's supportive wife. Derek Jacobi shined as the Archbishop. Jacobi, of course, played the stuttering emperor in the greatest mini-series of all time, I, Claudius (1976). Firth played Darcy in the BBC's fantastic 1995 version of Jane Austen's masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice. Michael Gambon, who played George V, was the star of another great mini-series: The Singing Detective (1986). Claire Bloom played his wife. Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, The Hurt Locker) played Edward. The only performance that did not ring true for me was that of Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill. It reminded me more of Alfred Hitchcock. Churchill is seen in private moments. Perhaps his persona was different behind closed doors. I can still envision him with a big cigar clenched in the corner of his mouth, smiling, flashing the V for victory sign. He was one of the most important figures of the 20th Century. Spall has a mountain of impressive credits, and I've never done any acting, so it is most likely me that is wrong here.
The film won the Oscar as Best Picture. Tom Hooper, who has worked largely in British television, won Best Director. David Seidler, who had a speech impediment himself as a child, was the oldest winner of Best Screenplay. And Firth won Best Actor. On a scale of five, I rate The King's Speech four-and-a-half. Long live the king.
Thanks to the kind folks who bought books today on Bay Parkway.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/5

Early in his career Stephen King's publisher discouraged him from issuing more than a book a year. He solved the problem by inventing an alter-ego, Richard Bachman, whose manuscripts were said to have been discovered after his death by his wife. He was also curious as to whether his success was merely luck. Unfortunately, the ruse was discovered after seven books, which King believed insufficient time to properly assess the issue. Sales of the books skyrocketed as soon as it was discovered King had written them. Thinner was the fourth in line. I just finished it, the first time I've sampled his work. I chose it above all the others a woman had donated because it was the shortest, coming in at just over 300 pages, which I maintain is the right length for any thriller. I really enjoyed it. The prose and dialogue were solid and the story was engrossing. He left the ending up to the reader's imagination. I would have preferred something more definitive. At one point, he lampooned himself, saying the story was as outrageous as any done by Stephen King. He characterized Bachman's inevitable demise as "cancer of the pseudonym."
When I first thought of becoming an author, my goal was to write the Great American Novel. I wanted to be acknowledged not as a writer but as an artist, someone who did only meaningful work. I believed popular works such as King's were beneath me. All these years later, hopefully much wiser, meaning eludes me (is that some sort of oxymoron?). I'm not sure there is any broader meaning to life than that which an individual ascribes to it. I wanted to create works that rang with universal truth and lasted centuries, not ones that provided the instant gratification of light entertainment. Now I wonder if such works are just as important, given that they help people get through life's journey, its bittersweet mystery. Of course, this may simply be the rationale of a failed artist, one who came up woefully short. There is no comfort in the unknown, of wondering how one's life work will be viewed long after death. It smacks of delusion. Popular writers know they have touched millions of lives. That is a great accomplishment.
On a scale of five, I rate Thinner three-and-a-half.
Thanks to Susan, who again bought several books, my only sales of the day. She said books are her only vice. She learned practicality from her father, who grew up during the great depression. He was so practical, in fact, that his first birthday gift to her when she was a young wife was a mop. During good years it would be a pot. Those old-timers were a different breed.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/3

It was another surprising day at the floating bookshop. I welcomed two customers back into the fold. Yelena, the young romance lady, must have left work early. I used to catch her going on a coffee run in the other direction when the weather was threatening and I set up at the viaduct. She overpaid, as usual, for Jackie Collins' Married Lovers.
I'd thought Maria was long gone from the neighborhood. I was so happy to see her. She bought A Hitch in Twilight almost two years ago. Her family was caught in the mortgage mess. The good news is they will be able to sell the house, and she is doing all she can to see that her daughter continues at the University of Bridgeport. I was shocked when she said she wanted to buy Close to the Edge. Are you sure? I wanted to say, feeling guilty about the prospect of taking money from her.
Eric, a young man of color, dressed for success, purchased a book on middle management, part of Abdul the Friendly Porter's latest donation. The other day he bought Vince Lombardi's Strive to Excel. He spoke of his dreams, one of which is to charter a plane to Bermuda, which costs $26,000. He wants to take his five-year-old sister along. He bought her a couple of books, one on aviation. Good luck, Eric.
Thanks, folks.
Hey, mystery fans - in case you don't know, PBS is running a new series, Zen, based on the novels of Michael Dibdin, on Masterpiece Mystery. It was shot on location in Rome, and centers on detective Aurelio Zen, a Venetian by birth. Rufus Sewell, whose credits go back to 1991, is the lead. Sci-fi fans will remember him as the star of Dark City (1993). Zen is a man of great integrity in a sea of corruption and cynicism characteristic of the films of Martin Scorsese. It is odd that almost the entire cast speaks in British accents, but it is the only fault of the series. Dibdin was a Brit himself. Lest we forget, all the great series based on classic Russian novels also suffered that same "flaw." To my dismay, only three episodes were shot. The second, Cabal, was as good as mysteries get.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/3

Rest in Peace Bubba Smith, 66, who has died of natural causes. Smith was a huge All-America defensive tackle at Michigan State in '65 & '66. He was the NFL's number one pick overall in 1967 and played on the Baltimore Colts 1970 Super Bowl championship team. He was a two-time All-Pro selection. Since that was so long ago, he is probably remembered more for his acting, particularly in the Police Academy series. He was a legendary figure. I began college at Western Michigan University in 1967, and tales of the wild ways of MSU's football players filtered down to us. Legend had it that Bubba was not very bright. One story had him approaching an instructor who had flunked him and demanding: "Bubba pass." The instructor looked at him and said: "Bubba fail." Whereupon the big man grabbed the guy by the collar, lifted him off the ground so that they were nose to nose, and said: "Bubba kill!" No doubt this is mythology.
There was an interesting development in pro football today. Minnesota Vikings huge offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was cut for being overweight. He is close to 400 pounds. I wonder if there will be discrimination lawsuits. Management's position is understandable. Ten years ago Korey Stringer, also an offensive tackle, died from complications brought on by heat stroke during training camp. Lawsuits followed. Circa 1970, lineman were in the 250-275 pound range. These days they're 350-375. It's more dangerous than ever out there.
And finally on the sports front, it has been reported that the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez has been involved in high stakes poker games. He was smart enough to leave a recent one when it looked like things were going to get really ugly. I wonder if he cheats at cards as he did at baseball. He is a great player, but, given his alleged steroid use, we will never know exactly how great.
Thanks to the kind folks who purchased books today.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/2

So the jokers finally got around to raising the debt ceiling. Of course, the entitlement monster remains unaddressed. As usual, the politicians punted the problem down the road, praying for an economic miracle to bail out their profligate spending, like the internet and real estate booms did previously. Trouble is, there is nothing on the horizon to give anyone hope, unless one believes the green movement will suddenly become economically viable. The best thing about the deal being passed is that it will put an end to the press coverage until the next time the ceiling is breached. Anyone who thought the two sides would let the country fall into default does not understand the gutless nature of politicians, whose main goal is to hold on to the perks and privileges of elected office. It will be interesting to see if we will continue to go the way of Europe's cradle to grave Socialism or reverse course. The 2012 election will tell us. Expect the media to do all in its power to discredit the Tea Party, whom VP Joe Biden referred to as terrorists. As a conservative, I'm not optimistic. The sense of entitlement in this country is astonishing and depressing: "I exist, therefore I am owed." Anyone who suggests Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid be means tested is attacked. Most argue that they are entitled to what they paid into the system. I argue that the programs are supposed to be a safety net. And no one has proposed a logical follow up question: Will those who live very long lives cease demanding taxpayer money when they reach the amount they have paid into the system? Let's have a show of hands. In less than ten months, I will be 62 and eligible for Social Security, despite the fact that I have yet to withdraw funds from any of my three retirement accounts. Wouldn't it make sense for the government to tell me the accounts would have to fall below a certain level before I became eligible for payments? Multiply me by thousands, perhaps millions of baby boomers, and it seems like a prescription for disaster.
Thanks to the kind folks who bought books today, and to Dave, who donated about $100 worth of hardcovers to the cause.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 8/1

It was a fun day at the floating bookshop. I received book donations from five regulars, including the Merry Mail-Woman and Abdul the Friendly Porter, and I had some sales. The first, Clement G. Martin's How To Stay Young All Your Life, went to a 68-year-old black woman who could have passed for 48 - easily. She should write a book and co-op the title from the tome in Mel Brooks' Young Fron-ken-steen (1975) - "How I did It."
Hector bought The Reader's Digest Healthy Cookbook. He learned the culinary arts while doing a ten-year stretch in prison. Cooking was so foreign to him in the beginning that he didn't even know the water had to boil in order to make mac 'n cheese. He asked if I knew how to tell when pasta was ready. I was sure he would say by biting into a strand - but noooooo! "Throw it up to the ceiling. If it sticks, it's ready; if it doesn't, it's not." I laughed, unsure if he were joking or serious.
Among Abdul's donation were The Teachings of the Tao, which sold immediately, and Joel Samberg's The Jewish Book of Lists. "How much is that?" a black woman asked. When I told her, she opened her purse, put on her best accent, and said: "Such a deal." She was thrilled that I got the joke.
Thanks, folks.
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