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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/31

elling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/31

Best-Selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford was born in Yorkshire, England. Her 27th novel is due in April. There have been 82 million copies of her books sold worldwide, translated into 40 languages. She began working at 15 as a typist for her local newspaper and worked her way to a solid career in journalism. In 1979, A Woman of Substance, was published. It was a sensation. I may never have read it if not for Joanne's donations. I was expecting something along the lines of Danielle Steele. I'm happy to report that it is more in the tradition of classic English literature. It is the story of Emma Harte, who works her way up from poverty to vast wealth and power through sheer will, natural intelligence and the willingness to assume risk. She outworks everyone in her sphere. As I was reading it, I thought of how people at the opposite ends of the political spectrum would react to it. Surely conservatives would love it, and the far left would hate it. Yet it sold millions of copies, and surely some readers were liberals. Emma Harte does not let astronomical odds deter her. She is an inspiration. I believe in the possibility of success, despite the naysayers. There are just too many examples of it in real life in the western world not to be true. Liberals seem to hate the idea that wealth, for those who haven't inherited it, can be acquired only through risk, which leads to colossal failure for some. Emma Harte has taken a place in my heart beside two other plucky fictional Englishwomen who share the same first name: the eponymous protagonist of Jane Austen's second best novel, and Mrs. Peel of the '60's TV series The Avengers, brought to life so delightfully by the beautiful Diana Rigg. The novel is not perfect. Its 900 pages could have used another tweak. It is much more descriptive than I like. Maybe it demonstrates laziness on my part, but I prefer minimal description that allows the reader to use his imagination, which will occur anyway. Bradford also does a lot of what my literary angel, Victoria Valentine, calls head-hopping, quickly shifting the point of view from one character to another. This usually bothers only traditionalists. I was never confused as to which character was represented. The novel is almost entirely devoid of humor. When I think of my first, Close to the Edge, my only regret is not having injected a bit of humor into it. On a scale of five, I rate A Woman of Substance four stars. Bradford wed her husband Robert, an American producer, in 1963, and moved to the States. They are still married. He has produced the adaptions of her novels. I look forward to the filmed version of A Woman of Substance, which I added to my list at Netflix.
It was a spring-like day, and people were in a buying mood. I thank my customers, especially my buddy Bob Rubenstein, who overpaid for a Howdy Doody DVD. His second novel, The White Bridge, which I had the honor of editing, will be issued soon. He is teaching classes on racism at Touro College, and one of the books he has assigned is his first novel, Ghost Runners. "Now if I had four classes, with 20 students per, every semester," he told me, "that would be a lot of book sales." I couldn't resist zinging him. I poked him in the chest and said: "I knew there was a capitalist in there somewhere." The White Bridge is in part an anti-capitalist screed. He laughed. How ironic that a proponent of free markets such as I was its editor. Please forgive me.
Here's to capitalism! I love it.
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/29

There was encouraging news out of Canada today. The people of Ontario have taken a stand against the scourge of Sharia law, convicting a father, mother and their 21-year-old son of murder in the honor killings of three teenage daughters and a 50-year-old woman, the man's first wife in the polygamous marriage, who was said to have encouraged the girls. In wire taps, the father is heard referring to the girls as whores, as they were adopting western values. Hopefully, all those who demand Sharia law will move back to a country that allows it. It has no place in the west. I'm glad to see the people of Ontario take the words of their national anthem seriously. I remember New York Ranger telecasts of games at the old Montreal Forum. Before the puck was dropped, Roger Doucet would sing a rousing rendition, the first part in French, the last few lines in English:
"God keep our land glorious and free.
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee."
Way to go, Ontario! Given the pluck Canadians have shown in this instance and in the production of oil, Americans should think twice of lampooning our neighbors to the north.
I visited Joanne's almost empty apartment just before noon. I made three trips up and down the stairs, hauling books. I could have taken more, but I decided to limit the donation, which had to be more than 100, an equal mix of hard and soft cover. There's only so much I can keep in the trunk. As it was, I had three large plastic bags worth and my laundry to carry up to my apartment. It's unwise to keep anything of value visible in a car these days, as thieves will break windows to get at loose change.
The books provided an immediate dividend, as people couldn't help noticing what I had on display. Of the 20 or so I sold this afternoon, half were among the latest batch. I also sold the entire set of the Twilight series, which was in pristine condition. The woman ran home to get money and was back in a flash. I also sold the last of the crime novels in Russian. Thanks, folks.
I've already gone through 48 of the 206 pages of the Killing file. I'll do more later. I should be done by Tuesday or Wednesday, but I won't send it back to Victoria unless she is ready. The last weeks before a book is issued are nerve-wracking.
Now playing on the Martini in the Morning stream: Louis Prima and Keely Smith's killer take on The Sheik of Araby. I wonder if the Sheik believed in Sharia law.
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/28

There's an interesting article at Yahoo about the press conference after the recent North Carolina-North Carolina State basketball game, State's 11th consecutive loss in the rivalry. Junior forward Scott Wood was asked how it felt. He looked at the reporter and said: "Has your wife ever cheated on you? That's probably how frustrating it is." The kid is a thinker. I hope he doesn't catch guff for the spontaneous statement from professional busybodies.
Now playing on the 57 Chevy Radio stream: Lesley Gore's follow up to It's My Party, Judy's Turn to Cry. Johnny can't make up his mind about them. Hey, girls - he's not worth it. But the songs did put money in Gore's pocket. At least I hope so. In those days music moguls were notorious swindlers.
Tonight PBS is running the Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway version of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), famous for The Kiss, a long mash by the stars that was risque in its day and ho-hum now. I'll give it a look. I'm particularly interested into some artsy-fartsy split screen stuff the film introduced. I wonder how closely it resembles what is done these days in movies and on TV.
I thank the folks who purchased books this afternoon on Bay Parkway, and Joanne, who donated another bag of popular novels and promised 100 more tomorrow. She is moving this week.
Thanks also to Judy, who purchased Killing on Kindle. She and her husband Jim, my best buddy from college, just became grandparents for the fourth time. Congratulations to Lisa and Todd. Lisa was a heckuva point guard in high school.
I will complete the editing of Victoria Valentine's Love Dreams this evening, which means the process to get Killing into print will commence shortly. I can't wait to get it into the hands of my biggest fan, my sister.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/27

It's rain-out theater. Here's a rare attempt at humor, a piece I wrote about ten years ago, The Stream of Conscious of a Middle Age Man:
Descending the stairs of his building: "D'you lock the door?" Stops, thinks. "Geez, can't remember." Tries to picture it, pivots. "No, you're not goin' back. If you didn't lock it, you deserve to be robbed."
Reaching the street: "Alternate side? Where'd I park the car?" Cranes neck, looks in each direction. "There it is. What's today?" Falls into thought. "Thursday. Watched Law and Order last night." Pauses. "Or was that the night before? No." Crosses street, looks up at sign. "Thursday. Does that mean you can park there Thursday or not park there?" Gears grind in head. "C'mon, you're a college graduate. Shouldn't be this hard to figure out." Stares at ground. "No, can't park there - right?" Does a 360, unsure. "Screw it."
Walking toward station: "There she is. God, what a fox." Shakes head. "Hello - she's 20 years younger than you. She needs more than 'one and done.'" Runs hand through hair, breathes sigh of relief discovering it's combed. "As if she'd give it a second thought after laughing at you."
As train approaches: "Easy. Let them fight for a seat, even though you'll be on your feet all day. Most of 'em aren't feminists. Not worth the loss of dignity."
In corner of car, reaching into breast pocket: "Damn, forgot your glasses. Way to go." Depressed, folds newspaper. Minutes later, feeling about neck, discovers glasses on string, rolls eyes heavenward. Looks to see if anyone has noticed. "Lose your head if it wasn't...."
Scanning ads: "Ooh, a coupon. Better tear it out now before you forget." Avoids eye contact with those around him, places coupon in breast pocket.
Looking up as doors open and commuters squeeze aboard: "Wow, look at this older woman. Wish she was pressing against me." Returns to page. "Older woman? She's younger than you." Hangs head. "Still thinking like you're 30."
Gazing out nearest window: "D'you miss the transfer? Don't tell me. Goin' over the bridge again?" Dreads embarrassment, even though no one but he will know. Anus unpuckers as train enters underground station. "Whew."
Leaving subway, heading toward work place, humming to self: "Oh, God - Lite FM! How'd it happen?"
Exiting the bathroom, touching gut: "D'you get it all? Can't tell any more. Hope you don't have to go back for an encore." Frowns. "Middle age sucks."
Walking towards the workstation, exchanging smiles with young woman: "The new math - 50 goes into 25 at least twice."* Laughs at self. "And then you woke up. Has no idea you're old enough to be her ol' man. Yeah, right. Probably feels sorry for you." Titters aloud, looks around to see if anyone is giving him sidelong glances.
Turning on handheld computer, donning glasses: "How silly must you look with these at the end of your nose?"
On line at lunch: "Roughage. No fries, no dessert."
Seated with co-workers, discussing whether a certain celebrity is still alive: "At least they don't know, either - and they're a lot younger than you." Laughs diabolically to self.
Heading back to work: "D'you wipe the crumbs off your face?" Discreetly runs hand over mouth. Checks fly. "Don't need to do that again."
Returning to workstation, grimacing: "Why's the air-conditioning so high? Need mittens and a scarf."
Half hour after lunch: "Geez, gotta take a squirt already. Bad prostate?" Tenses. "Check up soon. Oh, God - the finger!" Eyes close in anticipation of pain and humiliation of violation. "Remember when men were men and didn't worry about every little thing? So soft compared to dad."
Fidgeting in place, pulling on seat of pants: "Uh-oh - itchy butt. God, are you gonna have to start carrying the medicated pads around with you?" Chuckles triumphantly as itching stops. "Yes!"
On being teased by golfing buddy about his putter: "How'd you lose the thing? It's always the last thing in your hand. Must've fell out of the bag. How? Where is it? Good thing your pecker's not detachable."
Riding train home, looking up urgently: "D'you make the transfer? Miss the stop?" Intestines uncoil at sight of symbol that shows it's right train.
Approaching mailbox: "One thing you still remember to do." Grumbles at literary rejection slip. "What d'they know."
Riding indoor bike: "This sucks. Stop tryin' to stay young. Eat cookies and ice cream. This sucks. Give up. This...."
Doing push-ups: "Only halfway down. Gettin' soft. Useta touch your chest to the floor every one."
Rushing to stove, turning off gas jet: "Damn, overcooked pasta."
Crossing room, halting: "Why'd I come over here?" Looks around, baffled. "Damn."
Sitting at computer: "What's my password?" Stares blankly at screen, fingers drumming on desk.
Stretching out on couch, watching TV, appalled: "How'd we get from The Honeymooners to Friends?" Clicks remote. "Ooh, Seven-of-Nine. Are those real? Can that uniform be any tighter? God bless the guy who's sleepin' with her."
Waking up to infomercial: "Ugh."
Settling into bed: "D'you lock the door?" Debates, opens eyes, frowns, gets up to check. "Arrgh!"
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/26

I'll state the obvious: the Navy Seals are unbelievable. If only other aspects of government worked as efficiently as our service personnel. Hopefully, the pirates that have been plaguing the high seas will think twice about hijacking ships after seeing nine of their fellow swine blown away.
Politics is usually boring, often infuriating and ultimately discouraging. Once in a blue moon it is entertaining, as was the case yesterday when Arizona Republican governor Jan Brewer confronted the President on the tarmac of an airport in her home state. The heated finger pointing was caught on camera. Too bad there is no audio, although it is fun to speculate about what was said. It is rumored that Obama is particularly miffed about a critical passage about him in Brewer's book, Scorpions for Breakfast. Should the Republicans lose this year's presidential race, maybe Brewer will be the front runner next time.
Great news on the baseball front: our own Johnny Franco, Lafayette H.S. class of 1978, has been admitted to the New York Mets Hall of Fame. Franco is the all-time Mets leader in saves with 276, and also the all-time MLB lefthanded leader with 424. He makes all ex-Redmen proud. That's right - Redmen - and if that offends you - too bad. Way to go, Johnny Boy.
And another Italian-American has made good on the sports front. Greg Schiano, who turned around  Rutgers football, has been named coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although his overall record was only 68-67 in eleven years at the helm, he inherited a program that was rock bottom. His teams had a winning record in five of the last six seasons, and were 5-1 in bowl games. Good job, Coach, and best of luck.
I thank the gentleman who purchased a lovely pictorial on the lives of the Saints today, as sprinkles chased the floating bookshop to the near isolation of the viaduct at Avenue Z and East 15th.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/25

"Tippacanoe and Tyler Too" was a popular song from the presidential campaign of 1840. The tune has faded but the slogan remains. My classmates and I used to chuckle about it at St. Mary's elementary school. According to Wikipedia, William Henry Harrison led the Battle of Tippecanoe, fought against indians in the Indiana territory in a bid to expand U.S. territory. His running mate was John Tyler. Harrison was the first president to die in office, succumbing to complications from pneumonia only 32 days into his term in 1841. Today at Yahoo there was an interesting, fun item on his successor. Here's an excerpt, edited a bit by me:
John Tyler was born in 1790. Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler in 1853 at age 63. Then, at the age of 71, Lyon Gardiner Tyler fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and four years later at age 75 Harrison Ruffin Tyler. Both men are still alive. That means just three generations of the Tyler family are spread out over more than 200 years. President Tyler was also a prolific father, having 15 children (eight boys and seven girls) with two wives. He even allegedly fathered a child, John Dunjee, with one of his slaves.
You go, Mr. President!
Even a bad B movie is preferable to a political speech. With the State of the Union Address dominating most of the channels in my basic cable package last night, I turned to a DVD Marie gave me - The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), a cautionary tale familiar to fans of monster flicks: a scientist experimenting on humans. Only the star, Jason Evers, survived having appeared in it. He compiled over 100 credits, at least 80% of them in TV. His lovely co-star, Virginia Leith, barely had 20. The best/worst scene was a poorly choreographed fight between two buxom middle-aged strippers, who between them had three credits. I put the disc the on display for the first time today at the floating bookshop. Sure enough, a young Latina purchased it, while her mom bought a book on Finches. Gracias, chicas.
Abdul the Friendly Porter, bless his heart, wheeled over a shopping cart full of books. Unfortunately, of the 100 or so, most were obscure histories. I found 10 I think will sell, including a pictorial on gladiators, some spiritual stuff, and a comprehensive look at Jack the Ripper. As I was sorting through the pile, I heard one of the porters from my complex say: "Loco." I bit back the urge to respond. No one realizes the insanity of the artist's life better than me.
Now playing on Martini in the Morning: Marilyn Monroe singing Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/24

It was a fun day at the floating bookshop. I made more money than usual and there was a wonderful moment political in nature. I've spoken of Political Man many times. He came out with guns blazing today. "Tax the rich," he said. "These Republicans want to take everything away: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, abortion." As he segued to Obamacare, a tall Russian gentleman who has purchased many books approached with a donation for me. He stopped and listened to PM, then said in his heavy accent: "You say because you don't know. I live in Russia. I know." He was referring, of course, to government-run health care in the former Soviet Union. PM was not deterred. The gentleman purchased four thrillers and went on his way. Poor Frank, also of the class of '67 at Lafayette H.S., got caught in the role of my buffer, absorbing PM's rant. "He gets Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and he pays a buck-fifty for drugs - what more does he want?" he said to me as PM stepped away to address another passerby. When PM and I were alone later, he conveyed his hopes that gay marriage would soon be approved in Rhode Island. When I asked if he were married to his partner, he said: "No, he has too much money. I'd lose all my benefits." The comedy continues. Taxpayers are being taken for chumps.
Marie, who has donated many CDs, DVDS and VHS tapes to me, purchased A Hitch in Twilight today. I wanted to charge her half price, but she wouldn't hear of it. Thanks, madam. It was 50 days between sales of my own books, not counting eight Kindle sales of Killing. Thanks also to the elderly Russian woman who donated several serious novels, including Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
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Billy C. has been one of my great friends. We are the same age and grew up across the street from each other. A group of us used to take his Playboy magazines to the vacant lot up the block so we could lust over the models without fear of our mothers walking in on us. I still remember the Greek cuss words he taught me: Scata sta mootrousou, booshti, and scarse, vassanon. I'm sure the spelling is off. Anyway, he frequently sends me political emails. Here's one I love:
  • Piss on a Crucifix, and they'll call you an "Artist"
  • Piss on The American Flag, and they'll call you a Freedom of Speech "Constitutionalist"
  • Piss on a Police Car, and they'll call you an Occupy Wall Street "Freedom Lovin' 99 percenter"
  • Piss on a Taliban piece of shit that just tried to kill you and your fellow Marines, and they'll call you a "Villain" 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/23

Why does fortune seem to favor the Giants and Patriots so much more than other teams? Belichick is considered a great coach, but coaching doesn't cause a short field goal to sail far off course, or an experienced receiver to drop a pass, nor does it prevent officials from reviewing a questionable call. The old-fashioned Tom Coughlin is berated by many fans and writers, but he has won a Super Bowl and now has a chance at a second. His acumen is not responsible for the circus catch against a facemask that led to his first championship or the Hail Mary last week against the Packers or the special team takeaways versus the 49ers. In my youth in Brooklyn we used to say of those on whom luck appeared to shine: "He's got the ass." Then again, I probably shouldn't comment on sports at all these days. I thought the G-Men would win six games at most. Once a fanatic who watched any event, I now restrict myself to Sunday Night Football, the latter half of the Stanley Cup and NBA finals - if they're competitive, the second half of the NCAA Basketball Championship - if it's close, and the golf majors. Last night I didn't tune in until there were two minutes left in the first half. I prefer trying to sell books, including working the web toward that end. Outside of the Super Bowl, when the food at parties is too good to pass up, I won't watch teams I hate like the Steelers and Pats. And now the Giants will again be playing New England. If it were any other team and they lost, I wouldn't care, as I've seen them win three championships since '86 and always enjoy seeing a first-time winner. Hopefully, they will be able to prevent Belichick from hoisting another Super Bowl trophy. I feel sorry for Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff of the Ravens, even though they are teammates of Ray Lewis, and Kyle Williams of the 49ers. I know they make a lot more money than most of us, but it has to hurt to fail so woefully in front of millions around the world. And who knows if they will ever get as close to the Super Bowl again in their playing careers. The NFL is a brutal profession where the end is always imminent, except for its protected species, the quarterback.
In yesterday's blog I said that Mrs. Paterno had passed away. She is alive and well, and I thank my buddy Bags for the correction. I apologize.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/22

Penn State's legendary football, Joe Paterno, has succumbed to cancer at 85. What a sad end to a life well-lived save for a huge blemish. One wonders if the recent scandal hastened the spread of the disease. With his wife and career gone, he may have felt he no longer had reason to live. How I wish he had used his power to get that creep of an assistant fired. Fortunately, there will be no black mark beside his achievements in the college football record. Rest in Peace, Joe Pa.
Netflix has been one of the greatest pleasures. I used to watch three DVDs per week. Now that my list has diminished I've cut back to one. And I don't restrict myself to popular films. The best I've seen lately was the Italian I Am Not Afraid. I'll watch foreign, independent films, and B flicks long forgotten. Such was the case last night. The Hoodlum was surprisingly hardcore for 1951. What I loved about it was its fearlessness in presenting the case that some people are simply bad. And what actor better to star in such a story than Lawrence Tierney, whose hell-raising limited him to 100 credits. Many will recognize him as Elaine's scary dad, Alton Benes, in one of the many memorable episodes of Seinfeld. He also had a key role in Reservoir Dogs (1992). His most famous part was in Born to Kill (1947), although he was outdone by his co-star, Claire Trevor, who was so memorable as the alcoholic ex-singer in the classic Key Largo (1948). I think The Hoodlum is Tierney's finest work. He was self-assured and riveting throughout. There was a great bookend in the film. His mother, played by Lisa Golm, begs the parole board for his release at the start, then excoriates her incorrigible son on her death bed at the end. Tierney's brother, Edward, played his screen brother, a straight-arrow. Somehow Lawrence lived to the age of 82. Edward died at 55. I wonder if he too lived the high life. On a scale of five, I rate The Hoodlum three-and-a-half. It is rated 6.2 out of ten at IMDb. The print was not in good shape.
The only way I was going to sell books on this cold, sunless day was if I was able to set up shop at the curb beside my car. I spent half the time in the back seat. I thank the gentleman who purchased the book in Russian, which had the double whammy of Stalin and Hitler on the cover. I also thank the woman who bought four books for her kids, and Bad News Billy, who selected three DVDs and a miniature Bible. Yesterday he received a $125 ticket for parking in a No Standing zone, and his twelve-year-old grand-daughter is into hip hop and failing all her classes.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/21

Sharon Stone has brightened our lives in Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Casino (1995) and 70-odd other credits. She is as intelligent, sporting a Mensa IQ, as she is beautiful. For me, her stint as an ADA on Law and Order SVU (2010) was the only reason to tune into that absurd show. According to an article today at Yahoo, she suffered  a scary medical problem in 2001. She was in and out of a coma in a San Francisco hospital until doctors discovered she had suffered a brain hemorrhage. She underwent a seven-hour procedure to stop the bleeding and repair the torn artery. Afterward, she continued to suffer. She says: "I came out of the hospital with short and long term memory loss. My lower left leg was numb. I couldn't hear out of my right ear. The side of my face was falling down. I thought, 'I'll never be pretty again. Who's going to want to be around me?'" She has made a remarkable comeback, raising three adopted kids as a single mom, and working as a spokesperson for several charities. She will be seen as Linda Lovelace's mother in a new bio-pic about the star of the notorious Deep Throat, a role that the unreliable Lindsay Lohan lost to Amanda Seyfried.
Whenever I saw pictures of Heidi Klum and Seal, I was tickled by how happy they looked, rare in couples in or out of Hollywood. I am saddened at the news, also from Yahoo, that they are headed for divorce after seven years of marriage, although "They love each other very much..." according to sources. They have four children, one of which Klum had in a previous relationship, and which Seal adopted. I wonder what happened. I'm sure they suffer much more temptation than average folks. I hope they reconcile. I know it's a modern world, but I still thrill to glimpses of the old-fashioned one like the elderly Russian couple who have donated many books to me holding hands.
The floating bookshop was sidelined by the first snow accumulation of the winter. The prediction was three to six inches. It seems like we came in on the low end, and the forecast is for above average temperatures for the next week, so it will all melt before it has a chance to go black. I will bring a shovel with me tomorrow just in case I have to clear a space on Bay Parkway.
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/20

A year ago I was suffering terrible hip pain. I don't know if it was arthritis, bursitis or simply degeneration. There were a couple of nights the pain was so severe I was afraid it was bone cancer. Fortunately, Ibuprofen relieved the pain. Gradually, with the help of exercise, the hip improved 90%. At the height of the problem, it felt as if it were going to break apart whenever I hustled to beat a traffic light. Later, it simply felt as if my right leg was dragging, limping. To my astonishment this morning, I felt nothing when I broke into a jog. Perhaps time has been the big healer it usually is. The only thing I've been doing differently the past month is taking a supplement, Bio-Curcumin 5-Loxin, a natural product sold by Invite Health, which is affiliated with Pfizer, a huge pharmaceutical company. The instructions say take two per day. Ever cautious and thrifty, I've been taking one. It's about 50 bucks for a supply of 60. I plan to let it run out to see what happens. If the hip slips, I'll buy more. Anyone with any kind of joint pain should look into it. There's nothing to lose but a little money.
Jack stopped by on his way to another protest downtown. The focus this time is the web piracy laws congress is contemplating. He will be on the steps of a courthouse, wearing a frock with the names of evil corporations on it, a noose around his neck. He was hanging around with Al Sharpton the other day. He gave the reverend an OWS T-shirt and button. I don't know what to think of the piracy laws. My first instinct is always that politicians will make things worse. Jack pointed to the CDs I had on display and said it was piracy. I suppose it is, even though I paid for most of the songs. Others I received from a friend. Maybe I should wear an eye-patch and a puffy shirt.
Thanks to the folks at Pinecone Research for the deposit into my Paypal account, which I'm building toward a purchase of print copies of Killing. I have about 75 pages left to edit of Victoria Valentine's Love Dreams, then we'll work on preparing my novel. I'm getting antsy.
It was cold today. I had nine novels in Russian spread across the ledge of the garden that surrounds the apartment building where I usually operate the floating bookshop. A lot of people stopped to take a look, but only Grandma made a purchase. I closed up a little early. As I was doing so, a woman came along and bought Sandra Brown's Best Kept Secrets. Thanks, ladies.
RIP Etta James, 73, the songstress who gave us the beautiful At Last.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/19

I sold a Nancy Drew mystery to a collector today. Before she committed, she opened it to make sure it was not rewritten into more modern prose. She also wondered if the racist aspects had been expunged. "Wouldn't surprise me," I said. Only hip hop artists are allowed to profit from them with near impunity these days. Thanks, ma'am, and also to Cabbie, who pulled his hack to the curb and bought three thrillers, and to the lady who bought two cookbooks, and to the Russian gentleman who purchased a book written in his native tongue, and to the young man who bought the DVD of Fritz Lang's silent classic, Metropolis (1927). As much as I love movies, I have a hard time with silents, which some say are the purest form of cinema. They put me to sleep. Life is full of "sound and fury," as Shakespeare said in The Tragedy of Macbeth, and I want to hear it in film.
Here's a fun email a female friend sent me:
A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City , where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates: You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors & the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor,
but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!  

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads: 
Floor 1 - These men Have Jobs 
She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:  
Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids. 
'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.' 
So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:
Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.  

'Wow,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. 
She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads: 
Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework.
'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!' Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads: 

Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.
She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:

 Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor.
This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please.. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.  
To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives store just across the street.
The first floor has wives that love sex.
The second floor has wives that love sex & have money & like beer.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/18

I thank my buddy Herbie, who braved the icy wind to visit the floating bookshop and purchase Carrie Fisher's memoir, Wishful Drinking.
Some time around 1991 I received a letter from a woman I was nuts about for a decade - at least. In it, she included a piece she had written for a college class assignment. I haven't seen her since then, but I think about her, and other women who left their mark on me, just about every day. I edited the piece, which was untitled, called it Chaos in Alphabet City, and posted it online after 9/11, adding an intro. I've never submitted it to a print magazine. I wouldn't without her permission. Here's what she sent me:
   A few years ago I was living over a fruit and vegetable store in Alphabet City. My roommate was a cop who eventually traded his career for a free-basing pipe. As devastating as that was, it wasn't his bottom. He bottomed out in a filthy, garbage-strewn, rat-infested shooting gallery on Avenue D. He didn't die there because the hooker who had become his free-basing partner panicked after he passed out and she couldn't revive him. After several calls, she tracked down his mother, who was reluctant to respond. ALANON was helping her restore some order to her life. She was learning tough love and was afraid to do the wrong thing. She called someone from her group, who joined her at the hospital. Her son was lucky. His bottom was a breakthrough to recovery. Some people never reached that point. They became part of the "living in limbo" tribe, managing to keep a job but spending half a paycheck on partying, always busy but always sort of running in place.
   When my former lover finally surrendered to a higher power, he owed $70,000 to dealers. The only reason he kept his life was because his suppliers were goombahs, the same crew who sipped espresso with his uncles in side street cafes.
   Free-basing cocaine is very expensive. One way to afford it is to sell it. Our 1st Avenue apartment was a busy place. Evidence of "the life" was everywhere: scales, tin foil, mounds of coke, powders for cutting it, beer bottles, junk food, expensive brandy, bags and bags of quaaludes, and a pit bull. That was home sweet home. My man had no fear of leaving me alone with the drug because, for whatever reason, cocaine did not appeal to me. I had my own vices, but that's another story.
   Life lost all semblance of normalcy. It was not unusual to be awakened at four or five in the morning by relentless pounding or kicking on the door. I never knew if it would be cops or some paranoid, trigger-happy drug addict. I have one vivid memory of a guy with a machete, Louie "Chink," an Italian-American with squinty eyes that were always smiling. He was never really into it for the coke. He loved the excitement and loved my man. They grew up together and later supported each other through the early stages of sobriety. But Louis never really gave up the life. He was shot to death in a phone booth across the street. I miss him.
   But way before anybody became sober or dead, we were all still at the apartment. Obsessed with my man, I rationalized everything that was going on. Sometimes I took it personally and got physical. Being a free-baser was like belonging to a club. If I didn't want to become an active member, that was fine. The network provided him with plenty of company. There were times I came home from work and found him sucking on his pipe alone, but, for the most part, he got plenty of attention from others. Being a dealer guaranteed that - if you weren't choosy about your fans or their motives. Even through the alcoholic haze I was usually in, I could see how people played up to him. He was incidental to the coke. So, mostly there were strangers in the house. He introduced them as business acquaintances. There were all kinds: respectable looking guys, sleazeballs, attractive young women in business suits and pumps, and hookers dressed for the part. Free-basing had long since taken precedence over sex in our life. Coke made people think they were wonderful lovers, but it didn't tell their bodies the truth. I didn't envy anything sexual that may have been happening, but whoever was there had the attention I wanted. Since I never overcame my obsession with him, it took very little to reassure me. Sometimes, when he couldn't manage it, I got irrational, more irrational than choosing to remain in that environment might indicate. On one such occasion, more because I was feeling rejected rather than to come to his rescue, I destroyed all the free-basing apparatus. Even that didn't earn the attention I craved, negative though it would have been. Securing new "works" became his immediate concern. And so this former cop crashed in the window of a head shop that had the gall to be closed at five AM. The next day he was his own charming self and went back and overpaid the amazed Indian storekeeper for the damages and stolen items. He won another fan. It was really important to him that people like him, especially people he didn't know. He knew he had my unconditional love. I was helping to kill him.
   It was during this time that I witnessed an incident that motivated me to get free. One evening hysterical cries from the street penetrated my depression. When they became too much to ignore, I turned off the bedroom light and raised the shade. A familiar, sickening episode was in progress. The cast included a sleazy but brutishly handsome man and the woman he was beating. He had backed her against a crumbling storefront. Despite features that hinted at a former appeal, the blonde victim, now fat and unkempt, groveled. She was screaming obscenities at him while he struck her with a broomstick.
   The salsa beat on the avenue quieted for a moment as the street people, distracted from their card and dice games, gathered. Beers in hand, they watched, some shaking their heads sadly, others laughing, jostling each other. Also watching, silently, with huge, frightened eyes, was a little girl. The cowering woman kept trying to clutch at the child, which further enraged her assailant. It interfered with the rhythm of the punishment he was delivering.
   Finally, perhaps moved by the child's horror, a couple of bystanders set aside their beers and restrained the man, taking the weapon from his hands. Even after the man was led away, the pathetic creature, like a living bundle of rags in the doorway, continued the performance, albeit for a much less interested audience. The little girl tugged at her mother desperately, helping her up. Clasping the dazed child to her as she skulked down the street, her screeches shrank to whimpers.
   A brisk breeze cooled my face. The stench it carried, however, reminded me of the overflowing garbage cans one flight below. Suddenly the man became enraged again and ran after the miserable pair. The terrified child was pulled back and forth in a tug of war, until, once again, the man's friends dragged him away, pouring liquor down his throat. Scurrying away, the woman made the growling sounds of an animal. She fled toward Avenue A, using herself as a buffer to protect her child from the taunts and vulgar gestures flying after them.
   I wondered what the woman had done to deserve such abuse and I remember feeling contempt for her because she took it.
   Within seconds, certain there would be no encore, the street was again pulsating with a steamy tempo. I heard the apartment door slam and voices in the kitchen. Business was going on as usual here too. Shaken and desperate, I lit a joint to erase all thought.
     Not long after that I moved out. A friend warned me that the place was "way too hot." The police were aware of it and other dealers were getting jealous of the business. I hurried home with the information, not knowing if I hoped to rescue my man or if I was the one who wanted to be rescued.
   "I'm afraid to live here."
   "So leave."
   When I finally left it wasn't because of my fear of guns, cops, addiction or even death. It had to do with love - my family, my father. And if you're wondering where that came from, well that's another story too. If I didn't believe in anything else, at least I believed in that kind of love. I couldn't shake the image of my father laying down his change and seeing my bloody corpse splattered across the front page of The Post: "Teacher's Aide Statistic of Drug War in Alphabet City." I knew he deserved more than that, even if I didn't. Today I know we both did.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/17

I looked forward to the debut last night on Fox of Alcatraz, the new creation of wildly successful producer JJ Abrams, this despite the fact that I would have preferred that a fictional prison had been used. I fear too many liberties will be taken with the truth, not that it will matter to anyone but nuts like me. Of course, using the name of that famous jailhouse is probably astute marketing. The two-hours moved swiftly. I'm hooked for at least another episode. Its violence is now the norm for television. What ever happened to the groups that used to complain about it? I guess they surrendered.
Here's a partial list of Abrams' credit, culled from Wiki. I picked out what I consider the most significant, and will add a brief comment after each.
Armageddon (writer with Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno and Robert Roy Pool) (1998) I hated it. It was formulaic and contrived, but friends said it was the ultimate popcorn flick.
Mission: Impossible III (director, and writer with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) (2006) Not great, but fun.
Star Trek (2009) (director and producer) I was never a fan of the series, but I loved the movie. Friends who were hardcore fans said it was "not Star Trek."
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (producer, and writer with Christopher McQuarrie, Andre Nemec and Josh Applebaum) (2011) I look forward to the DVD release.
Felicity (1998–2002) (co-creator, writer, executive producer, director, co-composer of theme music) Never watched it, but the luminous Keri Russell tempted me to tune in.
Alias (2001–2006) (creator, writer, executive producer, director, theme music composer) Never watched it, but may catch up to it on DVD, as my friend Adam recommends it.
Lost (2004–2010) (Executive producer, theme music composer, co-creator, writer, director) I loved it, but doubt it will be remembered fondly, as its convoluted track wound its way to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Fringe (2008–present) (co-creator, writer, executive producer, theme music composer) My current favorite, rare in that the story arc makes sense, unusual for sci-fi. Remember how ridiculous The X-Files became?
Person of Interest (2011–present) (executive producer) It has grown on me, despite its outrageous premise and super-hero-like main character.
Thank you, Mr. Abrams.
The saddest thing about the grounding of the luxury liner, aside from the deaths, is the reprehensible behavior of the Captain who abandoned ship well before many of the passengers. Hopefully this was just an isolated case of selfishness and not more evidence of how low standards have fallen. It hurts that the Captain is Italian. Vergogna, as my mom would say. 
No luck today trying to sell books at the viaduct on this rainy day. "Tomorrow, tomorrow..." as Annie sang.
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/16

I've been a Giants fan for decades. I feel blessed, having seen them win three Super Bowls since 1986, while so many teams, some of them very talented, have never even made it to the big game. I expected this year's squad to win six games at most, and here they are one win away from another appearance on football's biggest stage. After exhibiting mediocrity most of the season, suddenly they are firing on all cylinders, turning 20 yard passes into long touchdowns, completing Hail Marys, and improving defensively to an astonishing level, light years from their ineptitude in November. Kudos to Coach Coughlin and Coach Fewell, both of whom were hammered by the fans and press just weeks ago.
Worlds collided today at the floating bookshop, as Viktor the Ukrainian and Political Man arrived at the same time from different directions. I was so happy to have a buffer for PM's rant. Viktor told a joke he has translated from Russian: A communist walks into a restaurant and asks the bartender: "How much for a drop of water?" "Free," he's told. He smiles and says: "Give me a glass full of drops of water."
As Political Man was telling me about the CDs he's ordering, most of them oldies from the 50's and 60's, he mentioned Shep and the Limelights, whose biggest hit was Daddy's Home in 1961. James Sheppard, who wrote it and sang lead, was sued for copyright infringement by the owners of "A Thousand Miles Away," which Sheppard also wrote and signed over rights to. According to PM, that company was eventually taken over by the mob, and when Tommy James threatened to sue for royalties, he was taught a lesson by a thug, who shot Sheppard right in front of James' eyes. According to Wiki, Sheppard was found dead, beaten and robbed, in a car on the L.I.E. in 1970, an unsolved crime. I suspect myth and fact have combined over the years to create what is termed urban legend.
A strange dream woke me from my nap. I was standing on the landing in front of the old house on Bay 37th - fishing! I hooked a huge Striped Bass, which my buddies and me used to fish for as teenagers, just before sunrise in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge. Having read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams years ago, I always hearken to his main thesis whenever I happen to remember a dream - that they are wish fulfillment. In this case, it wasn't hard to deduce that the dream referred to the floating bookshop, where I hope to hook customers, as I did again this afternoon, with three buying children's books in bulk. One paid me with a silver dollar. Thanks folks, and also to the 84-year-old vet, who donated another batch of books, and to Marie, who gave me a bunch of DVDs, including a Howdy Doody Christmas, in which Bob Rubenstein may be interested, as the third book in his trilogy is tentatively titled Howdy Doody and the Atomic Bomb.
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/15

It was about 20 degrees when I left the apartment. I again set up shop on Bay Parkway. The sun made all the difference in the world. I stood with my back to the Chase Bank to minimize the effect of the wind, which had diminished considerably but was still icy. I gave it two hours and thank the two customers who bought in bulk, and Joanne, who brought me another bag full of popular books, although she'd been sure I wouldn't be crazy enough to be out there on such a day.
I worked at the Commodity Exchange in lower Manhattan for almost 25 years. I started about the time Trading Places (1983) with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd was filmed. If you freeze frame during the rally that makes them rich, you can spot me. That was a comedy. I wrote a novel, Exchanges, about my experiences while I worked the Silver market. At the time we were still at 4 World Trade. Here's an excerpt in which I tried to capture the madness of a Fast Market. Warning: the language is blue:

Suddenly there was commotion in the Gold pit. The Silver ring filled to capacity in an instant, as if a huge wave had pounded a beach. Brokers who’d been seated sprang up like Jacks-in-boxes. The metals were rallying. Orders flooded the ring. Hands stuffed with paper reached over shoulders and squeezed through cracks in the humanity. Brokers leaned heavily against one another, clinging to a patch of turf, swaying under the momentum of the strongest and heaviest. Many turned sideways to fit in. Others refused to do so. It seemed so silly, as there was room at the bottom of the pit. Some were unaffected by the shoving. Others were obviously pained. At times, during slow periods, a game was made of the pushing, of the domino effect, as the instigators enjoyed riling those annoyed by the roughhousing. This was no game.
CONY was so demonstrative in his offer his eyeglasses flew from his head and pens from the pocket of his shirt. APB, an overweight young man, was knocked down and lay on his back like a turtle, gazing at those above him, bewildered. He had to rise under his own power, as everyone else was too preoccupied to help him. A week ago, during a day that saw trading intense from start to finish, MOJO passed out and was unnoticed by everyone but his clerks and Nutty, who raced to get him a cup of water.
Charley was jostled repeatedly by clerks climbing onto the podium and shouting past his shoulder. Orders and trading cards were forced past his hip and fed into the time-clock for stamping. Despite the confusion, the suddenness of the move, he quickly found his rhythm. There were days he never found it, despite his experience. Today the market seemed second nature to him. He felt a sense of detachment, of lucidness, as if he were an impartial observer. He was not at all nervous, which was rare for him.
He cupped the speaking end of the receiver with his hand to shield out as much noise as possible. He paused briefly between each trade he relayed, depending on the number of moves required of the DEC to complete each. He followed the activity in three ways: listening to the bids and offers, scanning the field for hand signals, and watching Brian out of the corner of his eye, wary of duplicating prints, of wasting valuable seconds. The clapping of hands was frantic, as several of the crew demanded attention simultaneously.
"Cross three Sep at seven, 'Douche Bag,’" he said into the phone. He often made up names or phrases, as the initials of certain broker codes sounded similar over the line, especially with such ado in the background. The names or phrases had nothing to do with whether he liked the particular broker. They were merely meant as clarification and comic relief designed to keep the DEC loose and to perpetuate an "us against them" camaraderie.
"Sep seven-and-a-half. Deece five. Cross a Sep at seven, ‘Dry Fuck.’ Ten Sep-Deece eight-sixty. Ya with me, 'head? Okay? Sep eight, eight-and-a-half, nine, Sep oh now. Here we go. Hang with me, you child molester, you. What's that shit up there? Take it down, hurry up - FXLA Sep. Did you do that? Tell the moron to use three numbers, for Chricesake." He placed the phone against his chest. "Of course it's comin’ down," he shouted to a broker nearby. "You know it's a bad print. It's a dime off the market. Asshole," he whispered.
"Awright, 'headly? Fix the high in Sep to oh." He turned to the reporter at his hip, who was writing up cross-trades. For some reason a written record had to be kept of each, despite the fact that each was entered into the computer and available on a print-out. "Oh, it's you, Nutty. D’you cancel that shit? C'mon, bite those fingers. Wake 'em up."
"I'm doin’ it," he snarled, shoulders rigid, fingers chopping along tensely. One would think someone who had survived combat would not be made nervous by anything else, especially something as preposterous as the action of commodity trading.
"While we're young. Sep nine, nine-and-a-half. Cross a Sep at nine, 'Whore House.’ Thirty-two Sep EFP crossed, 'RAW.' Red Deece ten-hundred. Sep oh, Sep oh-and-a-half, one. Ah, shit." He seized the microphone. "Listen up, who traded Sep above oh? Stinky 's offerin' twenty at oh. Should I take it down, Bobby?”
He looked to the Floor Committee member, who moved a hand before his neck like a movie director.
“Sep oh, nine-and-a-half, and oh again," said Charley into the phone, driving the prints in question off the board, which displayed only the three most recent in each month. "Kill the oh-and-a-halfs, Nutty. Put Grandpa on 'em. And tell Dewayne to pitch in when he gets a chance."
Dewayne, who was standing to Nutty's left and busy writing up the cross-trades Brian was entering, laughed and offered his standard comment: "Let me tell you somethin'."
"Fix the high in Sep to oh, 'head, some time in the next hour if you can. Good. That's it. You're finally gettin' the hang of this shit after fourteen years. Deece eight, Deece eight-and-a-half." He turned to Nutty. "The oh's not killed yet?"
"There," said Nutty, striking the key emphatically.
"You're out. Go where Gary is; tell ‘im to come up here."
"C'mon, Charley."
"You're too slow. Get atta here."
"It trades oh-and-a-half!" the broker directly to his right shouted, lashing out with his trading pad, striking Charley's arm.
"Keep your hands to yourself, Teddy. I ain't deaf."
"Pay attention."
This was the broker's catchphrase, aimed at Exchange employees and colleagues alike.
The roar intensified.
"Set up the 'Fast Market,’ Gary, hurry up. Don't send it ’til I tell you. Fuck it, send it."
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/14

Isn't it great when a plan works out? It was a cold, gloomy day in Brooklyn. I knew it would be less than an hour before I started shivering while operating the floating bookshop. I decided to give it a go at Bay Parkway for two reasons: I hadn't seen Jack, employee of Chase, for almost a month; and I hoped Joanne would have another book donation for me. I wondered if I were crazy when I rolled up and waited for a parking space to open up, as there were flurries in the air. And when I got to the front of the bank I saw no brown cigarette butts, evidence that Jack is on the job and has taken smoke breaks. A half hour went by and I was thinking about leaving, when he suddenly emerged. He didn't light up. I hope his New Year's resolution was to quit smoking. He bought a lucky 13 hard cover mysteries, most by James Patterson. A few minutes later, a lovely Russian woman approached pushing her toddler grandson in a stroller. She usually buys pictorial books for him. Today she treated herself to four novels in her native tongue. Then Joanne appeared, on her way back from shopping on 86th Street. I packed up and met her in front of the house she lives in, which is being sold by the landlord. She will be moving February 1st. She still has a lot of books to unload.
Thanks, folks.
I received the following from Ron, the talented banjo-playing husband of my niece Sandra. He calls it musician's humor:
 Craigslist Ad: We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special  events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More Jazz, Rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply ASAP.
 Reply: Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restaurateur to promote their restaurant and come to my house to make dinner for my friends and me. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response.
More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed Ethnic Fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/13

As Alan Ludden would say: The password is friggatriskaidekaphobia. What is the meaning of this bizarre word? Answer below.
By now you've heard of the Marines who are accused of pissing on the bodies of dead terrorists. I think it was wrong, but it's hardly a crime. Let's not forget that those same terrorists gleefully kill women and children, even Muslims who in their eyes aren't sufficiently Muslim. They would mutilate, even kill women who do not behave as Sharia law dictates. The worst thing about the Marines' lapse of judgment is that it gives PR ammunition to the enemy and to those liberals in the U.S. who hate the military and would happily impugn its reputation.
On a lighter note, I watched Disc One of Man with a Camera, a TV series starring Charles Bronson that filmed 29 episodes over two seasons from '58-'60. The first four episodes were weak, the last two were good. The premise holds the promise of great variety, as a photographer is not restricted by genre. I'm surprised it hasn't been tried again. As usual with the old series, the greatest fun is seeing who pops up as guest stars. Tom Laughlin, who had incredible success in the Billy Jack film series, and the bodacious Ruta Lee, were lovers in the first. Lee is still working! To my surprise, she has piled up more than 170 credits, most in prime time. I remember her from Stump the Stars, a game show that ran in the '60's at 10:30 PM. I was so disappointed when she lit up a cigarette as the closing credits ran. In another episode, Robert Armstrong (King Kong) and Angie Dickinson were father and daughter. Grant Williams, who starred in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and Norma Crane, who played the mother in the celluloid version of Fiddler on the Roof (1971), were betrothed in another. I always get a kick out of seeing Bronson's name in the credits of his earliest appearances, when he was still going by his real name, Buchinski.
I gave the floating bookshop a shot for an hour today, despite the gusty wind, hoping locals would be enticed by the novels in Russian I had on display. Alas, no luck. Hey, it is winter. And we're one day closer to spring.
Funny moment in Delmar - a woman popped in and asked if gluten-free pizza were available. Sacrilege!
Now playing on Martini in the Morning, Linda Ronstadt's beautiful take on a song made famous by Billie Holliday: "I Get Along Without You Very Well." I'm sure most of us relate to it.
Friggatriskaidekaphobia: fear of Friday the 13th. Then there's jasontriskaidekaphobia - fear that a new Friday the 13th movie is in the works.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/12

The marathon of airport runs has come to end, as I saw my great niece Carmen and her boys off this evening. Carmen commented on how her 20 days here had flown by. Valentino turned eleven yesterday. We all had a piece of his strawberry short cake before leaving. Little Yuri whined in the back seat. Buckled in, he could see nothing but sky out the window. What a contrast to when I'd picked them up, when both kids were so tired from the all-day excursion they immediately conked out. Carmen had to keep warning Yuri that his zio would get in trouble with the cops if he didn't remain strapped in. Buon viaggio, belli.
The floating bookshop was rained out today, so it's a perfect opportunity to ballyhoo the work of another of our All Things That Matter Press family of authors, a world traveler.

Just who is Elizaveta Ristrova Anyway?
With her balance of misanthropy and anthropological curiosity, author Elizaveta Ristrova travels around the world in search of interesting material. Her books consider the significance of religion, clashes between races and culture, the relationships between humans and the environment, and the creation and unraveling of human relationships. She keeps a day-job as a lawyer, focusing on environmental and international development issues.
 We in Pieces, Tales from Arctic Alaska, arose from her years living 500 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. There, she interviewed community leaders regarding traditional knowledge, cut and served whale despite being vegetarian, and read every issue of the local newspaper dating back to the 1960s. Writing was a great way to fill the three months of darkness each year.
Ristrova hails from south Louisiana and currently finds herself in Makati City, the Manhattan of the Philippines. She likes singing the blues, dancing tango, making soy brownies, creating kindergarten-style art, and proselytizing about the environment. Her previous books include Taking off My Sweater, Something Short of Salvation, and Small Fish in a Small Pond.
 We in Pieces is available at .
 Pictures of the nineteen characters in the book and a diagram of the relationships between them are at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/11

I almost lost it today when Politcal Man visited the floating bookshop. I'm used to his anti-Republican, anti-evangelical rants and sometimes find them amusing. I became an Independent because many Republicans are liberals. I once took a test of political views online, and it identified me as a Libertarian who leans way right. What got me this time is that I learned that PM uses food stamps - while spending $500 a month on pot. So, in effect, the government is subsidizing his use of ganja, as I'd once joked he'd wanted. And he has the gall to excoriate those who wish to end the gravy train. He actually opened his shopping bag to show me the supply he'd just bought.
Kodak moments seem to be coming to an end, a victim of the creative destruction of capitalism, which has seen digital photography win out in the marketplace. Of course, there is sadness in seeing a 100 year old company go under, but let's not forget that Kodak won out over less efficient methods a century ago. I took the cover photo for Killing with a digital camera, and my buddy Bags uploaded it to his PC and created the cover using Powerpoint. It's called progress.
When Grandma passed by hoping I had Russian books, I had to tell her "Nyet." She chuckled and went on her way. She just missed out, as an elderly couple soon donated a bunch of what the woman charmingly described as "dee-tech-teeve" novels. It reminded me of the way my sister, who was about 18 when she came to America, still pronounces some words(fin-ish-ed), which always makes me smile. Thanks, folks, and also to the kind ladies who purchased children's books, and to Abdul the Friendly Porter, who donated a couple, and to the 84-year-old veteran, who left books at the gyro stand with Ali Baba, who handed them off to the Merry Mailwoman, who brought them to me. I guess that's networking.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/10

I've watched Disc One of the 1987 TV series Tour of Duty, which was created in the hope of capturing the same audience that flocked to theaters to see Oliver Stone's harrowing Platoon (1986). Although I enjoyed the five episodes, I will not rent the remaining 53. The arguments and situations don't seem fresh, and I don't want to watch just to see which characters are killed in action. Since this was such a small sample, I won't rate it. Next up, and I'm really curious about it: Man with a Camera (1958), starring Charles Bronson in what may have been his only attempt at TV series. Fortunately, it didn't last long and he went on to a great career in film. I love Netflix!
I had to make another airport run today (seven down, one to go), so the floating bookshop was open only an hour and change. Sure enough, I made more money than I had the previous two sessions. An old lady who loves sci-fi noticed the copy of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and pounced on it, dubbing it a classic. I read it when I was 15 or so and loved it, which, in retrospect, is surprising, as my taste back then was for Batman and Superman comics. A woman who got off the bus at the same time purchased a thriller. The old Muslim gentleman who prefers spiritual works bought The Life of Christ and The Book of John, which analyzes that particular gospel. Of course, knowing a soft touch when he sees one, he talked me into a two-for-one. Simultaneously, a Latina asked about the Gideon Bible I had on display. I gave her a discount. Earlier, a 60-ish gentleman, who wishes me well each time he passes, crossed Avenue Z cradling a bunch of books. Someone had left a box of them on East 13th, almost directly across from the entrance to our building. He handed me the books and told me to check it out. Since I had to take Tanina and her family to the airport, I resisted the temptation. To my surprise, the box was still out there when I returned - and what a bounty it provided: the first four books of the Twilight series in pristine condition, and about seven Stephen King novels, both hard and soft cover. I don't know how anyone could have passed them up. There was more, but I didn't go back, as I already felt like a glutton. I'll check again when I go for my morning walk.
Ciao, little Lorenzo. Bon viaggio.
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/9

I had a big chunk of dough sitting on the sidelines in my IRA that I wasn't sure how to grow. I just pulled the trigger, selecting a mutual fund that concentrates on dividend paying stocks, the strategy being that even if the fund loses value, the loss is decreased or negated by the the yields. I bought it despite my pessimism. If the government continues its current spending and regulatory insanity, I expect economic growth to be anemic. I think the market has been kidding itself. And I'm not sure how America will be affected once Europe accepts the reality of its dire situation and begins to take real measures to address it.
I was on the computer while the Broncos were playing the Steelers yesterday. I visited Yahoo Sports and punched up the real-time game updates and saw the teams were headed to overtime. I went to fix myself a bowl of Progresso Chicken Barley soup. While it was heating, I took a peek at the machine and saw that Tim Tebow had thrown an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play, sending Pittsburgh to a sudden death. I laughed out loud, both delighted for this great kid and for the fact that the victory would tork off Christian bashers. How much fun would it be if the Broncos went all the way to the Super Bowl? Imagine the whining! Alas, that is highly unlikely. The only bad thing about Denver's win is that it makes the Patriots path a little easier. If New England meets Green Bay in the championship game, the over-under might be 70 or higher.
Last year at this time, there was two feet of snow on the ground. I'm loving this warmer trend and hope it continues all winter, even though it isn't translating to many sales for the floating bookshop. I thank the Merry Mailwoman, who requested anything by Janet Evanovich, and received today courtesy of Joanne's latest donation.
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/8

The Giants could not have had a more favorable opponent than the Falcons. They seem to be peaking at the right time. The situation seems eerily similar to their outrageous Super Bowl run. Of course, Giants fans are allowed to dream, but the Packers will most likely burst their bubble. They are more talented than the G-Men and they will be rested and refreshed. I guess Coach Coughlin won't be run out of town. His detractors will have to put up with his old-fashion ways for another year.
Last week my great-great nephew Yuri, almost five, had a ball rooting through the basement. He unearthed some interesting VHS tapes, among them Let's Go Mets and Doc, which I brought with me today with a specific customer in mind. I smiled when I saw Bob come limping along Bay Parkway, Mets hat atop his head. Of course, he purchased both. The one on Doc Gooden must be awesome. He was incredible his first two years in the bigs. His fastball was high octane and his curve was wicked. Unfortunately, he turned to drugs and was never the same except for brief flashes of brilliance, including a no-hitter when he was a member of the hated Yankees, or Skanks, as I call them. I was never more wrong about a player's character. Given that he was from a two-parent household, I figured he would keep his nose clean. I thought his homey, Darryl Strawberry, would lead a troubled life, especially post-career. And yet the Straw Man seems to have become a good person, while Doc continues to find trouble.
While working on the trading floor, rumors, financial and otherwise, were a big part of the culture. One day word had it that Gooden and Strawberry had been pulled over by a cop, who discovered cocaine in the car in which they were riding. The officer, a Mets fan, let them go. I hoped it wasn't true. Given what eventually followed, it probably was. In Gooden's case, his troubles became obvious for the first time when he missed the parade celebrating the World Series victory in '86. Not even 25 at the time, his skills were in decline. Base-runners tormented him once they discovered he had no clue how to hold them in check. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said: "You can steal at will." And Gooden did not handle it well psychologically. He began throwing at hitters vindictively. I remember him plunking second-basemen Tommy Hearns square in the back in the midst of a Cardinals' rally. Doc and Straw should have been Hall of Famers, given their talent. I guess their histories prove it takes more than talent to get there.
Thanks Bob, and also to the woman who purchased several books for her little girl.
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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/7

There was a great op-ed piece by Rich Lowry in today's NY Post. Conservative radio host Mike Gallagher covered the story a few days ago. Sarah Dawn McKinley, a single mom living in the middle of nowhere 25 miles outside Oklahoma City, found herself in a nightmare situation - two men were trying to break into her home. She put a bottle in her three-month-old baby's mouth and dialed 911. Her husband died of cancer on Christmas Day. She stayed on the line 21 minutes. There are only three deputies assigned to the 12,000 square mile area in which she lives, so it was unlikely she would receive any help. Fortunately, she was armed. She asked the dispatcher: "Is it okay to shoot him if he comes in the door?" Fortunately, Oklahoma allows a citizen to fire upon an intruder, who in this case happened to be carrying a knife. The dispatcher said: "... you do what you have to do to protect your baby." She blew the lead lowlife away. The other fled.
A week or so ago, Meredith Graves, a medical student from Tennessee visiting the 9/11 Memorial in NYC, asked a guard where she could check the gun she was carrying in her purse, for which she has a license in her home state. She was arrested and faces three years in prison. In my view, the politicians who strip upstanding citizens of the right to protect themselves are the ones who should be in jail. I've never owned a gun. I am not comfortable around one, but many are and many have turned the tables on criminals. There is an Armed Citizens Archive published by the American Rifleman magazine that details incidents of a weapon used in self defense as far back as 1958. There has been a pro-gun email circulating that highlights the tyrants who disarmed citizens. Two of the most notorious mass murderers in history, Hitler and Stalin, are on the list.
It was a gorgeous spring-like day. I thank the Russian grandmother who overpaid for another book for her grandson, and the younger woman who bought Jackie Collins' Goddess of Vengeance for herself and Ghostly Tales for her twelve-year-old daughter. And special thanks to Joann for another donation of hardcover best sellers. I surprised her with a gift - four oldies CDs I burned on my PC.
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/6

It's the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem and presented the baby Jesus with gifts of incense, frankincense and myrrh. My mom refused to take down the tree and decorations before this day. Unfortunately, that tradition has gone by the boards, done in perhaps by the early start to the season, which seems to get earlier each year.
I thank the kind woman who purchased a Kung Fu Panda book for her son, and another on the biblical Psalms for herself. And thanks also to the Merry Mailwoman, who was thrilled at the chance to work overtime, for buying Stieg Laarsen's wildly popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Here's an excerpt from a short story, The Bat, I've had trouble getting published. It's a tweener, about a child but not really a children's story. It may be of particular interest to anyone who learned to play baseball in a schoolyard:
   Seated with his back to the wall of the four-story building, Tony marvelled at the long drives propelled by the bat of Frankie De Carlo.  Batting righthanded, the muscular teenager displayed exquisite form: feet parallel, slight crouch, elbow raised.  His swing was effortless, level, fluid, set in motion by the tiniest of strides.  He hit the ball so squarely it barely flew as high as the three-tiered cyclone fence that enclosed the schoolyard.  The ping of the aluminum striking the ball was crisp.  Drive after drive struck the steel mesh forcefully, as if the ball were being shot out of a cannon.  The Rabbi's windows, just beyond the leftfield fence, were again in jeopardy.  The playground was still.  Everyone was watching.
   "There's Petey Marino," said the pitcher urgently, craning his neck, gazing beyond Frankie.
   Frankie's head snapped about.  Relief came over his face.  Marino, the legendary sandlot coach, was nowhere in sight.  The pitcher laughed.  Frankie flushed, smiling.  Marino punished any boy he found playing softball, claiming the lob pitching and larger ball ruined timing.
   "I better go," said Frankie self consciously.
   Tony, a dark-haired, crewcut boy of eleven, was disappointed. He secretly worshipped Frankie, who had started as a sophomore this season at Lafayette High School, which had produced, among others, Sandy Koufax and John Franco.  Tony dreamed of following in their footsteps.  He was sure Frankie would.  Tony longed to talk to him.  It was against the unwritten code of the schoolyard, however: the younger boys were not to address the older unless spoken to first.
   Bored by the mediocrity of the others, Tony headed for the nearest exit, which was just beyond the batter's box.  At the curb, beside the fire hydrant, he spotted a wooden bat split just below the label. He gazed about, seized the bat, and hurried across the two-lane street, looking back, expecting to be called a thief.  Why had the bat been abandoned? he wondered. The break wasn't severe.  It could easily be repaired.
   He raced into a backyard and examined his find more closely. He gripped the bat at the handle, assumed his stance, and swung.  His arms were not strong enough to carry it through the strikezone properly.  He choked up several inches and had greater success, although his swing was still awkward.  He smiled broadly, as thrilled as the day he'd found the old glove.  He would no longer have to use a friend's bat nor have to ask his mother to buy him one for his birthday.  He could be satisfied with the clothing she would undoubtedly give him.
   He rested the bat against the two-story house, certain his landlord, who occupied the ground floor, would leave it be.  He dared not take it inside, certain his mother would tell him to get rid of it.
   "Ma?" he said, stepping into a small, tidy basement apartment crowded with old furniture.
   A pale, attractive woman of medium height and shapely figure was before a bureau mirror, brushing her permed, dark hair.  "I'm goin' out," she said, selecting a lipstick from amongst the countless cosmetics atop the bureau, coloring her lips a lush red.  "There's cold cuts in the 'frigerator."
   "Why d'you always tell me that?  I know where the food is.  I can take care of myself."
   "Didja do ya homework?"
   "As soon as I came home from school.  You were still sleepin'."
   "Don't lie now.  I don't want you to be no drop-out."
   "Don't worry.  I like school.  How many times I hafta tell you?  It don't matter if you don't have a father there.  You can still be better than anybody else.  Too bad it's almost over."
   "I don't know when I'll be home.  Don't stay up too late, an' don't forget to take a shower an' set the alarm. An' lock the door."
   "Don't forget your keys.  I don't want you wakin' me up in the middle of the night like that one time."
   A car horn sounded.  She seized her bag and hurried to the door in heels.  "Bye, Tone," she said before stepping out.  "Be good."
   "I will, Ma.  See you tomorrow."
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/5

The floating bookshop re-opened after a five-day hiatus. It wasn't too cold the first hour, as the sun was strong, but, when it began to be partially obscured by the large tree 20 yards behind me, I felt it. I can't complain. It's been a mild winter so far, and the forecast for tomorrow is encouraging. I thank the woman who purchased a heavy tome on computer networking and several children's books, even though she shook me down for a lot more than she paid. At present my inventory is so high, thanks to the donations of passersby, that I can rename the floating bookshop overstock.vic. Thanks also to the 84-year-old vet, who left a bunch of spiritual books for me at Waj's gyro stand.
When I made the airport pickup the other night, the parking booth scanner declared my Ez-Pass tag invalid. Since the previous driver had paid using one, I knew the device was working properly. I shrugged it off, as I was anxious to get my great niece and her family to the funeral parlor for the wake of her grandpa. As I went to bed that night, exhausted from a long day of driving and greeting people at the hall, I recalled my previous attempt to pay for airport parking. The woman in the booth told me to hand my tag to her, which was odd, as I'd never had to do that before. I pulled it from the windshield, thinking there was some malfunction that required a closer scan. Suddenly I was wide awake, fearing I'd been the victim of a scam. I went right to the computer and to the Ez-Pass website, and sent them an email. As I saw it, there were three possibilities: One, I'd replaced the tag upside down, which was not the case, as I discovered the next morning; two, the automatic replenishment of funds tied to my credit card had not occurred; three, the attendant pulled the old switcheroo. If she did, the tag had yet to be used, as there were no unexpected charges to it. The greater worry, of course, is identity theft. I called my credit card company in the middle of the night, and the guy said there shouldn't be a problem. I hope he's right. The booth attendant would have to have a cohort in administration to get it done. I don't recall any articles about Ez-Pass fraud, but we've all read about it being perpetrated elsewhere. The last time I had a problem, when I was accused of non-payment at a point I probably went through too fast, my inquiry was answered in a week. If there is a problem with the tag, I'm glad I found out now, as I use the express lanes every time we go to my niece's house in Jersey. That might have added up to at least four violations each way, which activates the cynic in me and makes me wonder if it's a union ploy to raise cash and keep people in jobs. I guess it's possible the woman was simply angry about something and took it out on me. If she was up to no good, I hope she's canned, and ineligible for the cushy pensions they get.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/4

We buried my brother in law today. Yesterday's wake was well-attended. Even Al's biggest nemesis, Impy, who lived directly across the street and loved to break balls, showed up. There was a lot of reminiscing and laughter, as well as tears. Between the afternoon and evening sessions, I picked up Al's oldest grandchild, Tanina, her husband Simone, and little Lorenzo, four. The flight from Milan was delayed an hour, and traffic was so bad that there was no choice but to take them directly to the funeral hall. It is Simone's first trip to America. He works in the food industry and seems like a real pleasant guy. I have to really concentrate to understand him, as my Italian has gotten so bad. I confess that I often fake it. I'm happy to report, though, that he's not a Socialist, unlike most of his fellow citizens.
Al's nephew Anthony, an Army doctor and church deacon, presided over the ceremonies at the wake and the grave site, and assisted at the mass at St. Mary's. We are very proud of him. He is a veteran of Desert Storm, having spent time in Kuwait attending to the wounded. His high blood pressure kept him from being deployed to Iraq. Al was also a veteran. A three-man color guard was assigned to the burial. Many tears were shed as taps was played by one of the fine young men. My sister broke down at that point. I choked up, eyes glazing. It is amazing how even the passing of the elderly wrenches such emotion from family. I shudder to think what the death of the young must do. As the other two members of the color guard meticulously folded the flag and presented it to my sister, I noted tears on the face of my 15-year-old great nephew, Al's grandchild. His sister Danielle, 13, delivered the eulogy at the mass. Al would have been proud of her, although her emotions caused her to forget a lot of what she wanted to say. Ronnie, who is over six-feet tall, has taken up the guitar, following in the footsteps of his dad, a superlative banjo player. 
After the burial, it was off to the old house for the post ritual feast. The food was excellent, catered by a place on Avenue X that handled the funeral of a family friend, Herbert. My sister has seen the passing of several friends the past few years. I think it prepared her to cope with her husband's death. Two years ago, when she contracted pneumonia and was constantly coughing up a storm, I was sure Al would outlive her. She has made a remarkable recovery.
Yuri and Lorenzo, who sports blue-framed, Elton John-like eyeglasses, wore me out with their demands to be hoisted and held upside down. Fortunately, Ronnie and two of his teenage cousins, both high school football players, were there to relieve me. Many pictures were shot. There were a lot of those new-fangled phones on display. Frank, married to Cristina, Al's sister, did not attend the party. The emotion got to that exemplary man who brought five children into the world and raised them to be model citizens. My mom described him as a pinello, a paragon, as I understand it. Anthony, his son, once quipped that, like Hyman Roth of The Godfather Part II, his father complained he was dying of the same heart attack for 20 years. I was afraid we might lose him today. Fortunately we did not.
And we move on, as Al would want.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/2

Here's a brief excerpt from a short story, Just a Joke, I was lucky enough to have published several years ago:

   The pizza was perfect, ingredients genuine, not artificial: crust charred slightly; cheese gooey; sauce steaming, requiring careful eating lest the mouth suffer burns. Such quality was becoming rare around town. The product in Manhattan, by and large, was counterfeit, its shape the only relationship to the real thing.
   Here, in this cramped Brooklyn shop that hadn't been renovated in years, business boomed. Commuters, shoppers, students were in and out all day. On the sidewalk just beyond the doorstep, young blacks in the blue jerseys of Lincoln High School stood munching as they awaited the bus. Invariably, a person or two would veer into the place from each wave that poured from the train station two doors down.
   Seated at the first of three tables, headset piping Sinatra into his ears, Joe reveled in the bustle. This's livin', he thought, savoring his treat, craning his neck as the young Russian beauty from the accessory shop next door hurried by, ignoring the stares she attracted. He could picture that face, the devastating blue eyes and natural golden hair, peering out from the covers of fashion magazines. She might be too short for runway fame, but he was certain her face would command a fortune. He wished he knew someone in the business so that he might send her on her way.
   Stop, he told himself, doubting his motive was pure, chuckling at the absurdity of the fantasy. What would she want with a paunchy middle-aged educator? Suddenly he felt guilty about snacking. His wife, should she find out, wouldn't let him hear the end of it.
   Sonny, the manager, whose face was perpetually tanned, squeezed past the counter and toward the door, pulling on a jacket. "Awright, fellas, I'm leavin'," he said, gazing over his shoulder at the bakers. Noticing Joe, he took the seat opposite him and leaned forward. Despite the interruption of his reverie, Joe smiled and removed his headset.
   "Big black guy struts into a bar..." said Sonny quietly, deep blue eyes and the white hair at the sides of his head  standing out handsomely against the bronze flesh.
   Joe listened eagerly and tittered at the punchline, although he found it disappointing. Sonny left. Headset back in place, Joe returned to his treat. As he tilted his head to take a bite, he noted a customer waiting at the counter. He grew queasy. Although he was unable to determine the sex let alone race, as the person was wearing a large coat and wool cap, his instincts sensed trouble. Sure enough, a slight turn of the head revealed a black, female face. Flushed with shame, he despaired. Why did these situations always find one? he wondered.
   You didn't ask to hear it, he told himself, peeved. Had she heard it? Of course, he thought. That was life. You couldn't help hurting people even when you had no intention of doing so. Sometimes you just wound up in the middle against your will. What could he have done - censure Sonny?
   No doubt the woman thought him a bigot. He dared not apologize, as it was possible she hadn't heard. Having lost his appetite, he left, discarding the half-eaten slice in a litter basket down the street so as not to insult the bakers. So distracted was he that he failed to sneak a peak into the accessory shop. Realizing the oversight, he became irked. He'd allowed the incident to rob him of the pleasure of looking at a pretty girl, which indicated a shift in personal priorities, which translated into : "over the hill."
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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/1

The floating bookshop is on hiatus until Thursday, as our family mourns the passing of my brother in law. I'm not sure about the status of the blog. Meanwhile, here's an introduction to another of our All Things That Matter Press family of writers, a woman who was not deterred by affliction:
Soon after Jessica was old enough to walk and talk, her parents realized two things. The first was that she had an incredibly vivid imagination. Unlike many small children, she was content to spend hours at a time amusing herself, inventing ever more dramatic games of kidnap, runaway orphans and wicked stepmothers. When she wasn’t playing, she could often be found listening to an audio book, Roald Dahl, perhaps, or her favourite Enid Blyton, becoming lost in the tales woven by others. Even as a child, Jessica cherished a dream that one day she would be a writer herself. Always a shy person, she reveled in the ability to escape into another world, something that remains true to this day.
The second thing which gradually became apparent to her parents was that there seemed to be something wrong with her sight. She was forever tripping over toys left lying around on the floor, or being chided for sitting too close to the television (“You’ll get square eyes if you don’t watch out.”) It took several years of appointments with specialists, of brain scans and visual tests, but   when Jessica was five years old, experts diagnosed her as having Retinitus Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease affecting the retina.
At school, Jessica’s teachers did everything in their power to make life as easy for her as possible, including providing her with a CC TV and computer. However, as she approached her ninth birthday, her sight had deteriorated so severely that the teaching staff no longer felt equipped to meet her needs. It was decided that she should transfer to Dorton House, a weekly boarding school for the visually impaired. For Jessica, this was a dream come true. Having devoured all the boarding school stories she could lay her hands on, from Billy Bunter to Mallory Towers, she couldn’t wait for her own adventure to begin.
Of course, her time at Dorton House wasn’t quite the round of classroom pranks and midnight feasts she had anticipated. Nevertheless, her nine years there were extremely happy. In addition to the standard subjects, she learned to read Braille and to use a computer with speech output, was introduced to talking kitchen scales and white canes, and mastered countless every day skills to help her adapt to life as a visually impaired person. Outside of lessons she tried her hand at horse riding and archery, fell in love, and had her first painful dose of heartbreak. When she left at eighteen, she did so not only with top grades in her exams, but most importantly with the encouragement of her English teacher, which gave her the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.
Perhaps as a result of going away to school, spending more time in the company of her peers than her own family, Jessica developed an intense interest in people. Everything about them fascinates her. She loves to observe the ways in which they interact, their steadfast loyalty and tendency to hurt those closest to them, their capacity for both cruelty and kindness. It’s this understanding that makes her such a skilled writer. In the words of multi-published author Molly Ringle, “Jessica has an amazing talent for creating true-to-life characters, throwing them together in a gorgeous setting and letting the sparks fly.”
This insight into the best and worst aspects of human nature comes to bear particularly strongly in her novel “Dark is the Sky”, soon to be published by All Things That Matter Press. An emotional read fraught with tension and unexpected twists, the novel follows a family’s struggle to come to terms with the past. Twelve years after tragedy tore them apart, the Camerons reunite for the first time since that terrible summer’s day. Far from being allowed to lay their ghosts to rest, however, a shocking revelation almost destroys them for a second time.
The book is now available:
Happy New Year