Total Pageviews

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/31

The floating bookshop was shelved by rain today, which gave me the opportunity to get some chores done. Recycling empties and check cashing put some moola in my pocket, but the most important part of the day was filling the gas tank. A couple of weeks ago I had a huge repair bill, $863. Every time I went to the station the pump would stall repeatedly, every fifty cents or so's worth. Five parts needed replacement. Since I don't use the car much, it took a while for the needle to descend to a quarter tank, the point where I refill. If the stalling continued, I would have to have the gas tank replaced. Lord knows how much more that would cost. Fingers crossed - as if that would help - I approached the pump, the cheeks of my butt puckered in anxiety. Fortunately, things went smoothly, although I immediately wondered if they would next time.
A couple of famous senior citizens were in the news the past few days. Last night, comedian Jackie Mason, 75, was roughed up by his 48 year old companion, who was arrested for assault. Here's my favorite Mason joke, paraphrased from memory. It will help to conjure a heavy NYC Jewish accent: "Marry a Jewish girl and you go from Chinese restaurant to Chinese restaurant for the rest of your life. 'If I cook today, I don't cook tomorrow.' Just once I'd like to hear a Chinaman say: 'I'm lookin' for a nice piece of gefilte fish.'"
Congratulations to Rock n Roll hall of famer Jerry Lee Lewis, 76, who has married for the seventh time. No, his new bride isn't 13, but she is the ex-wife of one of his cousins. She's 62. All together: "Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!"
Speaking of senior citizens, my buddy Bags showed me about an hour's worth of DVD of the 25th Anniversary Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Celebration, staged at Madison Square Garden. All the performances were first rate. Crosby, Stills and Nash did killer versions of Woodstock and Almost Cut My Hair. They were not this good in their prime. Was it because sound technicians had yet to figure how to make live rock sound good? Or was it because they were under the influence back in the day? Whatever. BB King did the best rendition I'd ever heard of his signature song, The Thrill Is Gone. I've always wanted to like it and may have finally found a version worthy of download. Stevie Wonder did a tremendous set that included Higher Ground and Superstition, which Bags said was originally intended for Jeff Beck, who lent his incredible skills to this version. Simon and Garfunkel were great and actually seemed happy in each other's presence. Maybe they've finally settled their differences. They performed The Boxer. Here's a link to the first number they did. Enjoy:
Read Vic's stories, free:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/30

I thank the Merry Mailwoman, who bought three more Sue Grafton thrillers.
Here's an excerpt from Network 2015, part of the A Hitch in Twilight collection.

"You understand what I'm suggesting?" said the man at the wheel of a car
cruising down a dark road.
"Murder," said the passenger, grimly.
"I look at it as assassination or maybe a back-end abortion. When a financially
strapped woman finds herself pregnant - what does she do?"
"You don't have to tell me. It's been three years, and my wife still has
nightmares about ours." He reflected a moment. "It just dawned on me that if
abortion'd always stayed illegal we might not be in this position. At least we
wouldn't be as bad off. Millions more'd be paying taxes right now."
"Crazy, isn't it? Man just can't seem to avoid killing. Maybe we're not as
advanced a species as we think."
"Do we have any choices, though? It's us or them now, or it will be if Congress
doesn't do something soon."
"We're already there. It just hasn't been acknowledged publicly, yet. People
read about these incidents and assume it's just the random violence that's
always plagued us. We've got the edge as long as the press doesn't catch on.
Once they do."
The passenger stared out the window as the vehicle carved through the night.
"It's tough; believe me, I know," said the driver, who was perhaps 40, smartly
dressed. "I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it until I pulled the trigger. The
poor bastard may have not lasted much longer, anyway. Then again, he may have.
No matter what you tell yourself, it's still a human life you're taking. Sure,
he was raking in ridiculous benefits, but it wasn't his fault, really. The
system let him get away with it. Most of us would've taken it, too."
"I lost my job, my house. I had to sell my car. I can barely support my family -
and they're talking about raising taxes again. I'll have to become a criminal
for us to survive."
"Maybe that's what you should focus on if you decide to do it."
He paused. "How many have you taken out so far?"
The driver shrugged. "I couldn't say. Thousands, I'd guess. Not enough to make a
difference, yet. I'm just a link in what I think of as a long chain letter. I
couldn't tell you where command is or even if there is one. Although there must
"You'd think the CIA or FBI'd catch on."
"Maybe they have. Maybe we have their tacit approval. Or maybe they just haven't
figured it out, yet. The idea is to target singles and make it look like
robbery, which doesn't surprise anybody. I bet each target is thoroughly
researched. If somebody with a connection got hit, everything'd be jeopardized."
"It's hard to believe the government'd let it happen."
"Is it? They created this mess. Nobody had the will to attack runaway
entitlements - at least not seriously. They've left it up to the citizenry. It's
a modern tax revolt. All any of them cared about was being re-elected so they
could pile up their own outrageous benefits."
The hum of the car became prevalent as silence fell.
"I'm not sure I could do it," said the passenger, who was approximately 35;
"even if I convinced myself it was right."
"You wouldn't know until the moment of truth. Who knows - by the time you get an
assignment all-out war may have already begun. You think all the snipings are
just copycat wackos?"
"Another group?"
"That's my guess. I bet it's the same fringe that revolted in '05 when that
reparations bill came up."
"It stopped it. Christ, will life ever be anything but brutal, again?"
"I lost two friends in that carnage - and neither of them wanted a dime. They
were collateral damage."
"I had a softball teammate get it. Great guy, too."
"It wouldn't surprise me if that 'mysterious' crackhouse explosion wasn't part
of that undeclared war, too."
"Maybe our kids'll see better days."
"Probably our kids' kids, sad to say. This is bound to get a hell of a lot
uglier. The old-timers will eventually catch on and dig in."
A grimace of realization struck the passenger. "Somebody like me might be
assigned to kill my parents."
"Your grandparents, more likely, if they were living alone and isolated. I'd
guess all the victims are over eighty."
"How do you know I won't go to the cops?"
"I don't."
"How do I know you won't kill me if I refuse or even if I go through with it?"
"You don't. Look - go to a major newsstand regularly the next few weeks, check
the out-of-town papers, note the incidents. This is going to go on with or
without you. I'll be on a plane in less than an hour. You'll never see me
"How'd you find me?"
"The same way 'they' found me - somebody somewhere overheard you talking."
The passenger's pupils constricted in pain and regret. His words had come back
to haunt him.
"I know how you feel, and I don't envy you. One night you'll get a call, giving
you an address, and your life will be miserable for months."
"It's already miserable."
"It's hard. I still see that old coot's face in my dreams. I suppose I always
will. If you're lucky, your target'll be asleep and not looking you in the eye.
They're just victims of circumstance, not people you'd hate. You have to really
believe to participate in this."
Read Vic's stories, free:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/29

I didn't anticipate much business at the floating bookshop today, as the wind was very brisk. Marie stopped by on her way to Manhattan to return items to Bed, Bath and Beyond. She described herself as an "impulse buyer." I'd never have guessed it. She seems so level-headed. She's been so kind to me, donating darn near 100 CDs and videotapes, most of which I've sold. And she bought A Hitch in Twilight, which she is currently enjoying, as is Mark, who also visited. He bought the collection almost two years ago and has finally gotten to it. He really enjoyed the second story, Defining Moment, which is about a whipping boy wrestler, although he believes the steroid angle briefly cited is "antiquated." Steroids saved his life. He opened up about himself as never before. About a decade ago he had a real drug problem. He kicked it cold turkey and said everything ever depicted about the process, especially the vomiting, was true. Then he began having problems with his stomach, and doctors failed to pinpoint the cause. I assumed it was a consequence of abuse but said nothing. His weight dropped to 130. If the loss continued, he faced organ failure. He was prescribed steroids and recovered. He still takes them. He feels and looks great, but worries about the long term effects. He had to make a choice: improved quality of life or constant pain and the possibility of future problems. He chose ten to fifteen good years and the hope of more. I wished him the best and he went on his way. Ten minutes later he returned to tell me how much he enjoyed Network 2015, which, in a Hitchcockian way, deals with the problem of the future ratio of Social Security recipients to tax payers. He was reminded of the studies he and classmates had done on the subject at Syracuse's business school, one of the finest in the country. Needless to say, that made my day.
Although running back Brandon Jacobs was a key component of the Giants' past two Super Bowl victories, I am not saddened at his departure to the 49ers. He is as boorish as they come.
I thank Mr. Almost, who purchased two books in Russian, and Joey Fork Tongue, who lives on a reservation in Connecticut, near a country club. He sent in a mail order for Killing, overpaying in the process. 21 copies left.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/28

Last night, courtesy of Netflix, I watched a remarkable film that made several Top Ten lists in 2011, Margin Call. It is riveting, despite the occasional technical jargon and a low key approach so different from two equally compelling works about the business world, the flashier Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and Atlas Shrugged (2011). The tone is deadly serious, which is warranted given the worldwide catastrophe that would ensue. The tension and sense of dread is palpable. The wit is subtle and the dialogue first rate, avoiding the overuse of profanity. Knowledge of market terms is not essential to the understanding of the simple plot: a firm is in trouble and its brain trust must figure out how to save it. It is refreshingly even-handed. There are no evil people here. Several are cold-blooded, of course. After all, it is a high stakes, extremely competitive environment - the major leagues of finance. Viewers will probably affirm what thy already believe about capitalism, pro or con. The film would not likely change minds. It is simply high drama. I thought there were a couple of omissions that perhaps are a tell of the filmmaker's beliefs. In Jeremy Irons' character's defense of himself and his plan of action, there is no mention of the good such pencil-pushing, computer-keying wealth creation does - enormous tax revenue, for one, although a large portion of it, including his own, is about to go up in smoke. The bigger omission is that there is no mention of government involvement in the crisis, the pressure politicians put on banks to issue mortgages to the unqualified, which may have been the biggest catalyst for the financial collapse still affecting the planet at present. From what I understand, financiers realized how much potentially bad debt they faced and bundled it into securities to mitigate it and profit from it. Of course, I'm no expert in these matters. Buy a stock low, sell it high is as sophisticated as my trading philosophy gets. Despite these flaws, this is a wonderful film for adults. Kudos to screenwriter/director J C Chandor, who knocked it out of the park in his first full length feature, and to the great cast, especially Kevin Spacey, who also had the privilege of being in Glengarry Glen Ross, where he was taken apart in profane terms by Al Pacino, in direct contrast to the cold reason he is plied with by Irons. Demi Moore has never been better. Simon Baker adopts a completely different persona than he does on The Mentalist. Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto (Spock in the latest Star Trek) are fabulous. On a scale of five, I rate Margin Call four.
I sold ten books today, five in Russian and five in Ukrainian. It's the same alphabet. Michael said it's like talking to a guy from Texas. Spasibo, folks.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/27

In an article in today's NY Post the Rev. C.L. Martin accused Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson of highjacking the Trayvon Martin tragedy and trying to create racial division. He said: "The epidemic is truly black-on-black crime. The greatest danger to the lives of young black men are young black men." The disturbing statistics on this issue bear this out. Whatever the leaders of the black community are doing to reduce this ugly truth, it isn't working. It seems, perhaps in frustration, that they do all they can to deflect attention from it, and their greatest weapon is a questionable shooting by the police, which occurs about once a year. I'm not going to pretend to know what happened in this instance. The reports are now conflicting. Common sense dictates that if the shooter, Mr. Zimmerman, were even remotely guilty of a crime he would be locked up to prevent not only protests but worse. He has already been tried in the court of public opinion: guilty until proven innocent. The cynic in me suspects that the charlatans have a bigger goal in mind, using the issue to shame whites into voting for Obama. Blacks do not have to be galvanized. 90% will vote to re-elect the President. Was black on black violence as prevalent prior to the '60's? As a conservative, I believe that liberal policy has been the fault of this epidemic. Once fathers began to be replaced by government checks, it precipitated the disaster of single parent homes, the lack of guidance and role models. Perhaps this is oversimplification of the problem. What, then, explains why so many young black men resort immediately to violence, especially against each other? Is it still plausible to say that the psychological scars of slavery and bigotry have yet to heal for many? Is that fair in light of the success of so many people of color? The President of the United States is black, as are many CEOs, and the entertainment and athletic industries are full of success stories. What is the answer to the ugly truth of the mystery of black-on-black violence?
The wind diminished considerably today but was still icy. Fortunately, Bob Rubenstein stopped by the floating bookshop, and our conversation helped take my mind off the cold. Of course, we touched on the Martin incident. Bob, a liberal when he's not an anarchist, once was mugged, a knife held to his throat, and in the ensuing six months anger had him snapping at blacks. The mind works in bizarre ways. Only sociopaths revel in bigotry, but we're all susceptible to it. Even if we were all one color we'd find something to dislike. Fortunately, few of us are violent.
I thank the kind folks who bought and donated today, and my lovely niece Tanya, who ordered a copy of Killing by mail. 22 left.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/26

I picked a heckuva a day to make a book delivery in lower Manhattan. The temperature was fine, but the wind was crazy. I got off the train at Cortlandt Street to see how much progress had been made at Ground Zero. The main buildings are not far from completion. It's still not easy getting around. There are a lot of detours. Before the attack we used to cut through the World Trade Center's plaza to get to work. In '97, the trading floor moved from Four World Trade to One North End just at the foot of the bay, overlooking Jersey, the Statue of Liberty about a mile to the left.
I was a bit uneasy as I approached, although I've made two other visits since I got the boot 11/'07. The introduction of electronic trading has changed the business dramatically, eliminating most of the middle men who transacted customer orders, the clerks who worked for them, and the Exchange personnel who recorded the trades. At least 80% of the floor's population has moved on. I don't miss the job the way so many of the personnel do, but I do miss the people. I knew so many on a first name basis. I didn't go into the building. It's history and I want to keep going forward. I suppose, too, I did not want to see a certain someone I ate my heart out over for a long time. So I stood out in the howling wind, which is always more ferocious down there. I remember a few times struggling to get to the door. Fortunately the sunshine mitigated the effect somewhat. It was great seeing old friends again. Joe's son is married and in the Air Force, and his baby is half way through college. I remember when they were born. Gene is looking for a job as a youth counselor. Dougie is scrambling to make ends meet, as most of the clerks are - this in a place that was once awash in cash. Everyone I spoke to laments what the place has become. I worked data entry for the Exchange. Last week there were more cuts. They came out of the blue, completely without warning, unlike in the past when "privileged information" would come down the pipeline. It was the most loosely run ship imaginable. Now everyone is looking over his/her shoulder. There are cameras and mikes everywhere. The head of security was let go in the latest purge.
I was out there about two hours before I was approached by a guard, who questioned me, although the others had seen me exchange hugs and kisses with many who exited the building. He did not ask me to leave, but it made me uncomfortable. That and the fact that I was feeling the cold soon sent me on my way. The only disappointment of the day was not seeing an old buddy with whom I had lunch thousands of times in the 24+ years I spent at the Exchange. He was always so conscientious and might have been leery of leaving his post. I thank B, whose desire to purchase Killing led me there, and to three other sales. It was great seeing his lovely wife, who went back to work a year or so after their son was born. She was one of the few asked to return.
I guess Tiger Woods is not through. Does Tim Tebow play golf? Can the press figure an angle that would have him challenging Tiger?
I just read an interesting piece at Yahoo News. The lovely January Jones, one of the stars of Mad Men, recently gave birth and consumes her own placenta in capsule form. A woman described it as "happy pills." Most species eat placenta as a form of nutrition, but a doctor quoted in the article scoffed that it was unnecessary for humans, who have no shortage of food and vitamins. All together - ewwww!
Read Vic's stories, free:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/25

I ran across a wonderful tidbit in today's NY Post. Dominican-born Miguel Batista, who has spent 17 seasons in the big leagues, has a second profession - writing. He's had a book of poetry published, Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro, and also a thriller, The Avenger of Blood (2006), and has another on the way. Wow. Muy bien, senor. Batista has a record of 101-112 and has had 41 saves. He has played for many teams and is currently on the Mets' roster. He has his own separate trivia category: What man has won 100 games in MLB, has had 41 saves, and has had three books published? His thriller is available at Amazon.

Diane Mott Davidson has had 16 mysteries published, all featuring Goldy, a caterer whose sideline is investigating murders in her small Colorado town. Silly premise, but the author makes it work. I've just finished the seventh in the series, The Grilling Season, which was intricately plotted. I did not guess who the killer was. I have many of the other novels, donated by Joanne. When I picked this one up I was afraid it would be too light, but that was not the case. There is plenty of darkness, which affects even the heroine's 14 year-old son. She does her best thinking while cooking. The writing and dialogue are solid. Throughout the narrative there are recipes, ten in all, for the mouth-watering dishes she concocts. If I were married to someone like her, I'd weigh a thousand pounds. On a scale of five, I rate The Grilling Season three.
After a week of good luck, the floating book shop was rained out today.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/24

I thank the folks who bought books today on Bay Parkway. Here's an excerpt from Button, the story that Marie liked so much:

   "Listen to this one, hon'," said a fit, balding man, eyes fixed on a computer monitor. "'Ever wish you could get rid of someone at the push of a button?'"
   Edie chuckled and poked her head past the entrance to the kitchen. "I can think of a half-dozen people right now - and that's only students."
   Silently, he read further. "...Former fed employee on the run, looking for revenge against those who wronged him... Supply very limited. First come, first served. Act now before I vanish from this earth. Absolutely free, no strings. Just leave name and address, which will be deleted once the order is filled. Click here to eliminate any doubt as to the effectiveness of this product."
   He moved the mouse, and an article appeared: "Mysterious Rise in Coronaries Puzzles Officials."
   "Turn it off now, hon'," said Edie. "They just pulled up. And don't you dare order anything else."
   After dinner they retired to the living room. When the baby kicked the others rushed to touch Edie's belly. Although she was five years older than Jan, her sister, who had two teenagers, this was her first child.
   "I can't wait," she said, beaming. "Five months seems an eternity. We put it off so long. I didn't think it was ever gonna happen."
   She was pained by memory. She'd been pregnant in the first year of the marriage. They decided it was too soon. Only Pete knew. She'd never even told Jan, to whom she felt closer than anyone. She hoped the birth of her child would vanquish that pain forever.
   They conversed idly, slouched, completely comfortable with each other. Pete had removed his glasses. The familiar faces were a blur.
   "Find anything interesting online lately?" said Ted, Jan's husband.
   His wife smirked. "Are we gonna hear about smut again?"
   Pete mentioned the page he'd last visited.
   "Oh, wow," said Ted, "think of all the good you could do."
   "Politicians, lawyers," said Pete, "actors who tell you how to vote."
   "Drug dealers, degenerates," said Jan, perking up. "It wouldn't take long to make the world a better place."
   "Televangelists," said Ted, raising hackles.
   "Telemarketers," said Pete, forging a unanimous consensus.
   "If only it were real," said Jan wistfully, sighing.
   "I'm not so sure," said Edie, suddenly troubled, wondering if the presence of the baby were influencing her. "I don't know if I'd be able to do it."
   "But you wouldn't even have to look your target in the eye," said Ted, leaning forward. "Wouldn't there be a lot more killing if it weren't for that?"
   "Isn't that why abortion's so popular?" added Jan.
   Pete felt Edie flinch. He was annoyed, and surprised. She hadn't been blue about it in a while. He'd thought she'd finally put it behind her when the pregnancy test came back positive. 18 years had passed - she should've gotten over it long ago.
   He spoke up to move the conversation away from her pain. "Who would you off?" He found his use of gangster vernacular curious.
   Suddenly there was silence. They experienced a rare discomfort as a group. Other than internet pornography, this was as dangerous as their conversation had ever become.

Read Vic's stories, free:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/23

Alexandre Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo in 1846. Last night I watched the 2002 film version starring Jim Caviezel, courtesy of Netflix. I really enjoyed it. Although screenwriter Jay Wolpert changed some things, it remains a great story, the kind that Hollywood doesn't do any more. He discussed the changes in the Special Features. Kevin Reynolds, who directed Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves ('91) and Waterworld (95), gave a much better account of himself with this timeless tale of betrayal and revenge. I chuckled at the appearance of the ultimate urbanite, Manhattan-raised Luis Guzman, who was born in Puerto Rico and has specialized in playing sleazeballs, although he was once a social worker and is the father of five. Although his performance was uneven, it did not hurt the film, which is also notable as one of Richard Harris' last. He does his usual magic in the role of "Priest." Of course, Dumas' most famous work is The Three Musketeers (1844), the most well-plotted novel I've ever read, remade umpteen times by filmmakers, as recently as 2011. I remember watching an exciting 1975 TV version of The Count of Monte Cristo that starred Richard Chamberlain. More than 150 years after they were written, Dumas' works still fascinate. Wow.
He's a picture of Luis Guzman. Any movie buff will recognize him.

Well, it looks like any chance I had of winning this year's NCAA pool has gone up in smoke after Michigan St. was eliminated last night, and Syracuse, who I had losing in round two, continues to win. Wait 'til next year.
My luck continued today at the floating book shop. The Merry Mailwoman bought three Sue Grafton thrillers before I'd even set up. An Asian man donated two how-to books on tiling, which a man bought a while later. Lev, who has purchased several books in Russian, was drawn to A Hitch in Twilight. When I told him I was the author, he asked what it was about, then bought. Marie was delighted to hear about that. She raved about one of its stories, Button, which she'd just finished. And my good fortune was not done. As I was loading the crates into my trunk, a young black woman, who has purchased books in bulk from me several times, approached. She is one of my favorite customers because her taste is so eclectic. With that in mind, I asked what she was interested in today. "Murder," she said. We laughed. She bought four mysteries and two spiritual books.
Thanks, folks.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/22

Al Qaeda in Yemen has murdered an American teacher, accusing him of proselytizing, spreading Christianity. A Muslim terrorist in France murdered a Rabbi, three children, and several soldiers. And yet there are Americans who believe the surveillance of Muslims must cease.
It was a joyous day at the floating bookshop. Al, a local beat poet, picked up his copy of Killing, for which he'd made a deposit a week ago. He promised to give it a shot, although he doesn't read much. Don't laugh - many writers don't read anything besides their own work. They simply don't have the time or energy. Al is off to Cincinnati for a couple of weeks to see his in-laws. That might give someone reason to crack open a book.
I learned a little bit about Moses, who has donated a lot of books to me. He married twice, moved to Texas each time, and wound up divorcing. I suggested he stay here if he again tied the knot. He laughed.
Just before I was about to close, my favorite anarchist, Bob Rubenstein, showed with the final payment for my editing of The White Bridge - a signed copy of it. It is off to a flying start at Amazon. He has assigned it to the class he teaches on racism at Touro College. His blog got 700 hits yesterday. This kid is going places. He thanked me for helping him start a literary career so late in life. He's in his late 60's. I look forward to reading the novel for pleasure, although I always find it difficult to shut off the editor in me, no matter what book I may be reading. Bob was also kind enough to purchase a copy of Killing, and laughed when I showed him the glossary of Brooklyn Sicilian terms at the back of the book.
Mr. Almost was unable to resist a Russian translation of an Alexandre Dumas novel with which we were both unfamiliar. His shelves will soon be bursting. The book, and another, had been donated an hour earlier by Michael, who lives a few floors above me. In exchange, I told him to take any Russian book that struck his fancy. He laughed, perhaps at my lack of business sense. "I bring back," he said, selecting one that had a revolver emblazoned on the cover.
Thanks, gentlemen.
My bank statement had good news too. Amazon sent me royalties payment for the Kindle copies of Killing that have sold. Only $16 and change, but every little bit helps.
Mr. Morty again stopped by. He was in a hurry. His son in law was waiting for him. The guy drove up from the Mississippi gulf coast to buy a boat in disrepair. His hobby is to repair and sell. He'll drive all the way home with it hooked to his car. He'll also be taking two boxes of china Morty is giving his daughter. Leave it to him to find a way to save money. "It woulda cost me a hundred dollars to ship 'em," he told me.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/21

Pro football is brutal by nature. Large men capable of great foot speed crash into each other violently. Players get hurt. Are there men who deliberately try to hurt others? The New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal proves it is true. I'm not surprised. When I coached high school ball we wanted our players to hit opposing ball carriers and receivers so hard that they would fumble or think about being slammed rather than concentrating on catching the ball. It is not hard to understand why pros, especially those at the lower end of the pay scale, would want to injure the opposition, chiefly its stars. The further a team goes in the playoffs, the more money and glory it earns. Still, the fact that the Saints offered players $1000 for each opponent taken out is despicable. The league minimum salary for a rookie in 2011 was $375,000, and the scale climbed up to $910,000 for players with 10+ years of service. No one is underpaid or desperate for cash. Today the commissioner suspended head coach Sean Payton for one year. I applaud him for applying consequences to such behavior.
Also on the NFL front: Rumor has it the Jets are trying to acquire Tim Tebow. This is great news for New York except for one factor - how will he fit in? Will he be solely an occasional Wildcat QB? As much as I'd love to see him in the Big Apple, I'd rather see him as a starter elsewhere. I don't understand the team's thinking. It seems they should be using that money to strengthen other areas.
Mike Gallagher played a clip on his radio show this morning of an Occupy Wall Street leader introducing Michael Moore in not so flattering terms as "The 50 million dollar man."
I saw Mr. Morty for the first time in months. As we were conversing, I spotted Political Man walking our way. I immediately conjured George Costanza saying "...worlds collide." Sure enough, the fireworks went off. Morty, a self made man who made a great living in sales and still travels about all day at 77, would have none of PM's leftist ranting. I stood there and laughed as Morty took him apart. But nothing would deter PM. He was in a great mood, returning from a score. This batch of pot was dubbed Thunder Kush. In minutes he would be in his own world.
It was another good day for the floating bookshop. The Merry Mailwoman bought three Janet Evanovich hardcover thrillers, Herbie bought Dorthy Uhnak's 1977 blockbuster The Investigation, which was turned into a Kojak TV movie. Mr. Almost purchased a Russian translation of the Ray Bradbury classic, The Martian Chronicles. And a couple gobbled up a mixed bag of six books. The only disappointment came from an attractive middle age woman, who said she'd buy A Hitch in Twilight on her way back from shopping. To my chagrin, she'd spent all her money, or so she said. Maybe she just thought twice about buying from a nut selling his books on the street.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/20

I've watched the first three episodes of Mad Men on DVD. I thought the premiere, which focused on the office, was great. I wasn't crazy about the next two, which had a lot of suburban angst, one of Hollywood's main interests, but not mine. The only way I'll watch more is if it is syndicated or if I run out of interesting movies to add to my Netflix list. In every scene it seems half the people are smoking, even secretaries at their desks. It is a complete turnoff for me.
Alcatraz, on the other hand, has hooked me. I look forward to it every Monday night. I particularly like the offbeat portrayal of the warden by Jonny Coyne, who does not have a bio at IMDb. He conveys a wonderful sense of menace. Given his work early in his career, he seems to be British. He fits as easily into Americana as Tim Roth and Simon Baker have. Alcatraz and Person of Interest are the only new shows I've liked this season. I've already given up on The River, and Smash is up against Castle, which I enjoy.
If NY Mets owner Fred Wilpon is smiling after the court ruling that went in his favor, the fans must be upset. Now there is almost no chance he will sell the floundering team. Wilpon, I'm sorry to say, is an alumnus of Lafayette H.S., as was yours truly, and Larry King, artist Peter Max, actor Paul Sorvino, Jets lineman Sam DeLuca, and MLB's Sandy Koufax (Wilpon's contemporary), Bob Aspromonte, Al Ferrara and John Franco.
No one can blame the Denver Broncos for going after Peyton Manning, one of the NFL's all-time great passers, but I'm disappointed that Tim Tebow has been shoved aside. He'll probably have to go to another team to prove himself.
The 30 copies of Killing arrived last night. And the first street sale goes to - Steve, the poet laureate of Sheepshead Bay. Thanks, buddy, and thanks also to the other kind folks who purchased books on this balmy first day of spring. May it be as benign as the winter was.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/19

Last night I couldn’t find anything interesting on TV on any of my favorite channels between eight and nine PM. I clicked outside the box and found an interesting segment focusing on Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe’s opposition to the Cap and Trade environmental law, whose costs to the economy would have been between three and four billion dollars. It led him to study the global warming issue, whose science he found dubious. He was well prepared for the questions that came his way, frequently referring to copious notes he’d brought. His arguments were sound. He pointed out that Time magazine had run covers 20 years apart warning of environmental doom. To my delight, they were easy to find. Here they are:

The Seattle Seahawks have signed QB Matt Flynn to a 26 million dollar contract. Flynn has started one game in his NFL career. He made the best of it, passing for more than 400 yards and several touchdowns in relief of Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. I hope he does well, but that is an awful lot of money to risk on the basis of one game.
My final four teams, Ohio St., Michigan St., Kentucky and North Carolina, are alive. I’m six points behind the leader, but I’ve blown a lot of points in the elimination of Missouri and Kansas St. I probably will have to have no mistakes the rest of the way to have a shot at winning. It’s so odd. I haven’t watched more than a few minutes of the coverage, but I enjoy the pool so much.
My literary angel, Victoria Valentine, took care of me again, accepting my golf story, Up and Down, for her next Literary House anthology. It takes place in late spring of the year of the first bombing of the World Trade Center, which our foursome experienced first hand, one more closely than the rest of us.
Today is St. Joseph’s Day. This is how it is celebrated in Italian-American households:

The floating bookshop had a great day. Not only did regulars Brent and Mr. Almost make purchases, several other people did as well, including Marie, who bought her second copy of A Hitch in Twilight. She was halfway through the first when, to her chagrin, it went missing, probably at the office of her tax preparer in Manhattan. I was humbled by her praise.
Thanks, folks.
I also got a visit from Bob Rubenstein, who proudly showed me his copy of his second novel, The White Bridge. It's beautiful. Like me, he is waiting for the delivery of 30 books. It is nerve-wracking.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/18

I was watching another of the music videotapes I made, this one circa 1992. It didn't hold up as well as the others. There was a lot of footage from the all-star Freddie Mercury tribute. Outside of Bohemian Rhapsody, I'm not a big fan of Queen. The most interesting part of the show was trying to figure out what was going on in Axl Rose's head when he and Elton John had an arm around each other's shoulders. He did not look comfortable. Robert Plant, Annie Lennox, David Bowie all were solid but nothing more. Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi played along on a couple of songs, eying Brian May intently, following the chord changes. Mott the Hoople showed, doing not a Queen song but "All the young dudes carry their ludes...." The highlight for me was Liza Minnelli headlining the finale, We Are the Champions. A lot of people in the press thought she had no business being there. Silly.
The best performances on that tape were, surprisingly, by Skid Row, tearing it up on Saturday Night Live, despite the obvious choreography. Pretty boy front man Sebastian Bach is a good singer, as he proved by doing the lead in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, the big leagues. He is no longer with the band, which is still touring and making records.
The most disappointing part was U2 performing End of the World. The performance was good, but the sound wasn't up to par. It is one of my favorite songs by this great band, telling the story of a relationship, not the apocalyptic vision the title implies. Here's a link to another version, done the night of their induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. I'm not a fan of the idea of such an institution. Rock is about non-conformity and there is nothing more conforming than a HOF. One good thing can be said about it, some darn good live performances came from it. This clip shows Bono was born to be a front man. He's had it since I saw them at the Ritz in the '80's just before the band broke big. Enjoy.
I picked my own pocket today. A young woman approached the floating book shop and immediately reached for A Hitch in Twilight. I told her what it was about and she decided to take a shot. Just as I was about to sign it, she said hadn't bought a print copy in a long time, as she now has a Kindle. I told her Hitch and Killing were available in that format, and she reneged. I wrote down the information for her. I would have felt I was deceiving her by not saying anything. Well, I just checked the ranking for each book, and they haven't budged. As Mrs. Gump would have said: "Stupid is as stupid does." I'd hoped the good deed would create good karma, but, unlike yesterday, people were not interested in purchasing books. I sold only one, a self help volume, to a young man. Thank you, sir.
I could kick myself.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/17

It is my pleasure to announce that my friend Bob Rubenstein's second novel, The White Bridge, is now available at Here's what it says on the back cover:
"How does a civilized person make any sense of all this?" The question from Joshua, revisiting Nazi Germany as an interrogator of German war prisoners, begs an answer. For the author and, indeed, for all humanity, it is a question that is hard to answer without implicating the entire human race. A holocaust parable of a young woman reporter, Ginger Lee, on a thirty year search for justice, across the white bridge where a killer proves to be elusive as an American ideal.
There was an evil about, skirting like a stone across the ocean that nobody could foresee because, well before Mengele came for their eyes, America already had gone blind.
A Jewish Book Council, Book-of-Note author, Mr.Rubenstein's first novel was included in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Library. Companion pieces: Ghost Runners, historical fiction about two Jewish runners not allowed to compete in the 1936 Olympics, and The White Bridge, a parody about the transformation of a young woman in a time of eugenics, baby farms, Hitler, the Klan, and the culture of lynching.
Robert continues his inquiry to understand the hatred, the horror, and the heroics that were needed to defeat fascism here and abroad; he teaches advanced topics in psychology: the psychology of racism, at a local university system. A former special educator in the New York Public Schools, Rob raised two children as a single parent; still loves the southwest, especially Navajo country, and gets his feet wet on the Coney Island shore.

You may not agree with the politics of The White Bridge, but it is one heck of a fun ride. Read more here:

So how are your NCAA brackets doing? I bet a lot of people had Duke and Missouri going a long way. Syracuse has surprised me, winning easily today to reach the sweet 16, despite the ineligibility of one of its starters, Fab Melo.
I knew the floating bookshop would have a good day when a Russian couple stopped me as I was carrying the crates along Bay Parkway. They purchased two books in their native language before I had even set up. Jack, employee of Chase, bought six thrillers. A woman in a white kerchief - I'm not sure if it was a burqa - not only bought three books, she returned minutes later with a donation of seven. Another woman bought the vampire and werewolf novels I had. Everyone bought in bulk today. I also lucked out when the woman I'd told that Killing would be available this weekend didn't show.
Erin Go Bragh to our Irish neighbors.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/16

Mysteries almost always have a pronounced darkness. Not so Leslie Meier’s Wedding Day Murder, despite its title. Among Joanne’s vast donation of books were at least ten of Meier’s. I was expecting lightness, as she is unknown to the lovers of the genre who patronize the floating book shop. The murder does not occur until about page 120 of a novel of 236 pages. The narrative focuses on the domestic life of the heroine, a housewife/reporter for the weekly paper of her small town in coastal Maine. In the end, everything works out fine. Most of the characters are wholesome, although they have problems. On the author’s website, her books are described as “cozy mystery.” She has written 20, one per year, featuring the same protagonist, so she must have a solid fan base. I was unable to find any stats on her book sales. There is no page about her at Wiki. Her prose and dialogue are okay. While I respect her penchant for decency, I did not find anything exciting in the work, at least in this part of the series. She must be doing something right if her publisher keeps issuing her books. No doubt the series has tallied at least a million sales. I’ll break 600 soon. On a scale of five, I rate Wedding Day Murder two.
I got off easy at the dentist this year, but not so at the mechanic. Since the forecast was for showers all day, I figured it was the right time to take my 2003 Hyundai in for its annual inspection. I got the return call rather quickly, which meant the news was extremely good or bad. There’s something wrong with the gas line that requires five parts. I am not surprised, as I’ve had problems every time I’ve filled up lately. The pump shuts down every few seconds, which makes a trip to the station really annoying. The bill will be $836. I’m trying to tell myself I’m coming out ahead, given that the dentist didn’t cost me anything.
I just got an email from my literary angel, Victoria Valentine. The 30 copies of Killing won’t arrive until Monday. At least I received a twenty buck payout from, so today’s news is not all negative.
Just got the call from the shop. The work is done, but more may be needed. If I have the same problem pumping gas, the tank may have to be replaced. Ugh!
Oscar, the mechanic, said it is a common problem, even in Hondas. That’s why parts are easy to find. Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t trigger the Check Engine light on the dashboard. He showed me these little carbon deposits that were in the fuel system. They looked like rat droppings. He hopes he was able to flush them all out. They can find their way to an engine and cause a major headache. I’ll know if they problem was solved next time I go to the pump. I have half a tank right now. I was too bummed to take it to the station. I’ll wait until there’s a quarter left, as I usually do, and hold my breath as I’m pumping. Oscar says I can wait a few weeks.
Read Vic’s stories, free:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/15

I entered only one NCAA pool this year, at the WOR AM radio website. The price was right - free. I'm not even sure what the prizes are. I chose practically all the top seeds throughout, picking only Syracuse to lose a second round game. While they've had a great year on the court, they've had a tough one off it, and now one of its best players, Fab Melo, has been declared ineligible. Basketball is not my strong suit. In nearly 25 years at the Exchange I never won anything that had to do with it. I may have won at least once per season picking pro football. Pools were one of the things that made work tolerable.
An old Russian gentleman pushing a walker stopped by the floating bookshop, attracted to a book that had Hitler and Stalin on the cover. He seemed old enough to have been an eyewitness to the carnage in the Soviet Union during World War II. 70 million were killed during WWII, 30 million in the Soviet Union alone. 4,300,000 Nazi soldiers perished, 10,600,000 Russians, which means nearly 15 million civilians died. Those are staggering figures. In contrast, we lost 416,000 servicemen, and about 2000 citizens working overseas. And the only bombs that fell on the U.S. mainland were on Oregon forests in September 1942, dropped from planes catapulted into the air from streamlined Japanese submarines. Damage was minimal. The enemy had to abort the project as the tide of war turned against them and all their firepower was needed in the Pacific theater. I had not known this until a recent documentary was aired on PBS. I got the war deaths stats at Wiki, and clarification of the bombing on U.S. soil at 
I thank the old gentleman for purchasing that book, the five other customers who bought, and the 84-year-old WWII vet, who donated several books, including an audio book by the prolific Nora Roberts.
The 30 copies of Killing I've ordered are due tomorrow. I will probably be on edge until they are in my hands. My mind runs rampant. What if it's delayed after I've told so many people it will be available soon? What if they get lost? What if Newman steals them? Maybe he's retired by now. Why didn't I keep my mouth shut?
The forecast is for possible showers. The two factors may keep me home.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/14

I can't do without the New York Post. It was late this morning. I decided to wait. One thing the computer can't replace for me is the printed word, books, especially a newspaper. I start from the back and take about an hour to get through it. The Post has a conservative bias. The Daily News has a liberal one. It just doesn't do it for me. As I was waiting beside the newsstand, a middle age woman familiar to the neighborhood was seated on a milk box nearby, smoking, panhandling, shaking a cup filled with change at passersby. She soon rose and approached the newsstand, where she bought a scratch off lottery ticket. Tobacco and gambling on the public's dime - nice work if you can get it.
The Knicks have hit the skids. Last month they were the rage, the franchise revived by the play of Jeremy Lin, who sparked them to seven straight wins. Now they have suffered a complete reversal of fortune, winning only two of their last eight games. Curiously, the slump has coincided with the return from injury of their most talented player, Carmelo Anthony. Many had speculated he would not fit into the new up tempo offense. He seems to prefer the half court game. The back page of the Post reported he had demanded a trade, only 13 months after his dream of becoming a member of the team he'd followed as a youth had come true. Now Yahoo Sports has reported that Coach Mike D'Antoni, who has been unable to make any headway with the team, has resigned. I guess Melo will rescind his demand. One can always count on pro sports for comedy.
It was another gorgeous day in this winter that wasn't. The hedges have already begun to bud. I've heard there will be at least one consequence to the unusual weather - a lot of bugs. I saw a swarm of them hovering about a bush as I accompanied a friend on a walk. Hopefully it will be one of those predictions that don't come true.
The proletariat was out in force today. I sold eight books, all in Russian. Spasibo, ladies and gentlemen.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/13

I just did some research at IMDb on Kirk Cameron, the actor who starred on the TV series Growing Pains, which I've never seen. I'm not a fan of sitcoms. I was curious if I'd seen him in a film or as a guest star on a series. I haven't. He did a radio interview with the Happy Conservative Warrior, Mike Gallagher, this morning. He has been in the news lately, attacked by the left as a bigot and homophobe. Gallagher introduced him using a recent quote he'd made eloquently defending himself: "I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years — without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach ‘tolerance’ that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square." Cameron, a devout Christian, has six children, four adopted. He is the producer of the forthcoming documentary Monumental, which examines the meaning of America. I applaud him for having the guts to speak out. When Political Man visits the floating bookshop spouting his leftist paranoia, as he did today, I let him spew without defending those on the right.
The most amusing story of the day concerns Tide detergent, which is being stolen from store shelves and sold on a black market. Does this have any larger meaning in terms of the economy, or is it just an oddity that will disappear now that it has been discovered and security measures will be instituted?
The quote of the day comes from Leonardo DiCaprio: "I realize that I do not change the course of history. I am an actor, I do a movie, that’s the end of it. You have to realize we are just clowns for hire."
The fakest current controversy concerns having to present a photo ID at voting centers. We present such identification frequently in day to day life. What's the big deal? Is the vehemence of leftists on this proof that they have the most to gain from voter fraud? I've been asked for ID when I've voted. I was happy to show it.
I thank the Merry Mailwoman, who purchased two thrillers today, and the gentleman who purchased a book in Russian. The session was cut short when a work crew showed and began demolishing what is left of the nearby bus shelter, damaged a week ago by a car.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/12

I made my annual visit to the dentist today. Great news - no work needed. Last year was torturous and expensive. Dr. K marveled at how many crowns he has put into my mouth since I began seeing him in 1985. I immediately thought he should refer to me as Crown Vic. Since my teeth were being cleaned at the moment, I was unable to speak and forgot it by the time I was out of the chair. The average life expectancy of a crown is five years. Only two of mine have had to be replaced. The good doctor quipped that if all his patients were as vigilant as I he would be out of business. He ordered a copy of Killing. He has purchased my three prior books as well and was most impressed. His lovely assistant/wife, Ann, said that A Hitch in Twilight was too scary for her. She may want to kill me after reading my latest. Thanks, Doc.
Since I was in Bay Ridge, I decided to set up shop on the busy strip along 86th Street between 4th & 5th Avenue. Since it was a long walk from the car and I wasn't sure if the same friendly police officer was still assigned to the beat, I lugged only one crate. It had probably been two years since I'd last been there. I had the chance to visit with Yacov, a Russian immigrant who sets up a table of children's educational fare and date books outside the Bank of America. He loves to talk politics and frequently refers to his life in the former Soviet Union, which he believes was and still is superior to that of the USA. Of course, that doesn't explain why he had come and remains. He asked if I'd ever applied for food stamps and was disappointed I hadn't, as he is facing a phone interview and is curious about what will be asked. I asked how his ex was, and he said she was doing great teaching piano to students from all parts of Brooklyn, Staten Island, even Queens. She doesn't even have to travel. She is regarded so highly that her students go to her. I was tempted to ask why she didn't help him financially, but decided it wasn't worth risking any friction. Good luck, Yacov - with the books, that is.
Although I had no luck selling books, I met a woman who has an interesting story to tell. Linda's father was a photographer on Iwo Jima when the iconic shot of the soldiers raising the flag on Mount Suribachi was taken. She claims her father took a similar shot but was beaten to the punch on getting it to the press by Joe Rosenthal. He had scores of war pictures his second wife, upon his death, took with her to the Dominican Republic, where they were inadvertently destroyed. Linda said she had 40 pictures of Marilyn Monroe, most of them signed, destroyed by her abusive ex. She wonders if she should publish her father's story without the pictures. I told her only she could answer that, but that the book was certainly far less marketable without them. With them, the proposal would have caught the ear of any publisher of pictorials. The ones I've had at the floating book shop have always sold quickly, and none were as intriguing as that. I suggested she publish the book to Kindle, which would allow her to test the waters for free. Good luck, Linda.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/11

Ayn Rand wrote two of the most influential works of the 20th century: The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), novels in which the protagonists represent her philosophy of Objectivism. I believe they are great books, although not necessarily great novels. I recommend the first, as its ideas are basically the same as the second, and done in almost half the length. Rand described Objectivism as: "… the concept of man being heroic, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."(Wiki) She was born in Russia, which she left in the 1920's. She immediately fell in love with the New York skyline and all it represented. She was an ardent defender of laissez faire capitalism. Last night I watched the film version of part one of Atlas Shrugged. I loved it. I suspect those who share her beliefs would admire the film and those who are appalled by them would not. I believe capitalism is the best economic system because it is in line with human behavior. Since I first read Rand, I ask myself: How does this relate to the self? - whenever I'm puzzled by an issue. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all motivated by self interest. A loving mom will nurture her kids because it is essential to her self image. A negligent one will place her own interests first. The screenwriters, John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O'Toole, set the action in the near future, in an America stifled by government regulation and mired in economic decline. It is a cautionary tale that bears aspects of fantasy. How refreshingly adult to view one on something other than environmental paranoia. The only faces in the cast familiar to me were Jon Polito and Michael Lerner, wonderful character actors who portray political hacks. The main storyline concerns the disappearance of ingenious industrialists, those one-percenters whose work feeds the world. They are being recruited to a new Atlantis by a shadowy figure, often referred to in the line: "Who is John Galt? Essentially, they've gone on strike. The heroine, played by Taylor Schilling, who runs a railroad company her father built and her brother's kowtowing to politicians threatens to destroy, is infuriated by the deserters, calling them "quitters." She retreats to Colorado, the last self-sustaining state in the union, to run an off-shoot firm. Unfortunately, politicians scheme to create equality of outcome. Of course, the story has its faults. The world has shrunk to a degree that there would be virtually nowhere for such a group to go except Mars. Even if they found a place on Earth, such men would create a society so successful it would have to expand. It would eventually need the rest of the world. And, if it refused to help, it would probably be attacked.
I wonder if the participants will suffer backlash from Hollywood, be denied work in the film industry. Kudos to director Paul Johansson, who doubles as Galt, cinematographer Ross Berryman, and the producers, who brought this important work to life. It couldn't have been more timely. I look forward to part two. The special features had a section that showed people who sent the producers clips of themselves saying: "I am John Galt." I wish I could include myself among them. Does running the floating bookshop qualify me? Even if it did, come July 25th I will begin receiving Social Security payments, which would disqualify me. I live off the fruits of the one-percent, like the rest of the 99% do. It is a humbling thought that happens to be true.
I thank the kind folks who purchased books today on Bay Parkway, and congratulate my friend Johnny Feets, who just completed a brief run in the off-Broadway farce, Social Anxiety.
Great news: Killing is now available at Amazon, $15+:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/10

I thank Jack, employee of Chase Bank, for purchasing three thrillers today on Bay Parkway, and the Russian woman who bought the book in her native language. Here's an excerpt from a screenplay I wrote sometime in the '90's, a thriller that pays tribute to movies and TV shows of the past, chiefly through name-dropping. I probably had more fun writing it than anything else I've ever done.

Part Two: The security gate. A Sheriff's car skids to a halt at the security booth. The
officers exit and approach the corpse.
He draws his gun and looks about. His name tag reads: "Fife."
Put that away, Andy.
How do we know he's still not around?
Would you stick around if you did somethin' like this?
No, but I'm not crazy.
The Sheriff looks at him askance.
Sometimes I wonder.
The Deputy stares, unsure of himself. The Sheriff chuckles, squats, and examines
the body.
And how d'you know it was a man?
No woman'd ever do somethin' like that.
Does the name Lizzie Broden ring a bell - or Lorena what's her name?
The Deputy smirks.
Well, I guess I shouldn't expect somebody who married the girl next door to know
what some women'll do.
The Deputy fidgets. The Sheriff chuckles.
Geez, Barney, how can you laugh at a time like this?
If.... Never mind.
He looks at the body.
Poor Otis. At least I think it's Otis. Does it look like Otis to you?
The Deputy is appalled at the humor.
C'mon, Barney.
The Sheriff scrapes blood from the name tag. It reads "Campbell."
Sheriff :
Yep, it's Otis all right. Get an ambulance out here. And tell Angel to call Elly May
and tell her not to wait up for you.
As the Deputy goes to the car, the Sheriff makes his way to the door of the
sanitarium. He notices the blood-stained sock, peers around the bush, and grimaces.
Suddenly he is staggered by a flashback to Vietnam, his finding a G.I. dead behind a
bush. Grasping the railing, be shakes his head to chase the image.
He enters the building and sees the severed head and hand. He looks toward a
stairway. Blood is now winding its way down and also trickling from the landing. He
experiences another flashback, the carnage in the aftermath of an explosion. He
blinks several times to restore himself to the present, mutters to himself .
Gonna be one of those nights.
The Deputy enters and immediately grows pale.
Sheriff :
If you're gonna heave, go outside. Don't taint ...
Too late. The Deputy spews into the red river. The Sheriff smirks, then grows
Not like it is in the movies, is it? You lost your innocence now. You got a close up
of the savage side of life.
The Deputy is leaning against the desk, gathering himself. A glimpse of the legs of
the dead body behind the desk jolts him into recovery.
God, I know her. What is this?
Hell. I saw it in 'nam.
That musta been fun.
A barrel of laughs. At least it got me ready for this. Matter of fact, life's been kinda
boring since then. Guess you can't hide forever. Better ring up the FBI. This's way
over our heads. And don't touch anything.
You don't hafta worry about that.
The Deputy leaves. The Sheriff enters the recreation area. "Jeopardy" is airing.
Several inmates are slumped in their seats, apparently poisoned.
Lord save us.
He follows the river of blood, peers into the two rooms, winces at the sight. He
experiences a flashback of severed heads impaled on long sticks. He shakes his head to
chase the image.
He approaches a door upon which a plate is affixed: Dr. Melvin Brooks, Chief of
Staff. The Sheriff finds Dr. Brooks face down on his desk, an eyeball driven into a
fountain pen resting in a stand. A pool of blood soaks the blotter. Beside his head
rests a folder. Atop the folder sits a. note. The Sheriff lifts and scans it. He notes a
large "X" on the cover of the folder.
For the past year I've been treating select patients with various doses of a drug I developed, hoping, believing it would cure them. While the initial results were promising, the final results have proved disastrous and appear irreversible. The files of the five subjects are in the folder beside me. Rather than endure the inevitable scandal and humiliation that will ensue, I have chosen to take my life in the hope that Bates-Myers will be spared and be allowed to continue its vital service. I alone was responsible for this catastrophe. No one else knew of the experiment, although several of the staff had grown suspicious. I ask the forgiveness of my family, colleagues, friends, and the fine citizens of this community, who have been so supportive of our efforts.
Mel Brooks
Read Vic's stories, free:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/9

Stuart Woods has had 29 consecutive hard cover best sellers. 23 have had ex-cop/lawyer Stone Barrington as the lead character. I've just finished the fifth in that series, Worst Fears Realized (1999). It must not have been one of his better efforts. The story is routine and does not ring true. The characters are one-dimensional. The dialogue is mediocre. Of all the mysteries I've sampled, this was the least interesting. Even the presence of four Italian-Americans failed to bring me around. There is considerable name-dropping. At times the novel reads more like the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The late Elaine Kaufman, famed NYC restauranteur, is one of the characters. Only a brief segment captured my imagination: a sleazy lawyer lying to everyone in his sphere. The body count is substantial, for those who like it that way. Blood flows liberally. The handsome lead beds beautiful women easily. It's a fast read. Its 300 pages seemed more like 200. On a scale of five: one. Episodes of TV's Castle and The Mentalist are far superior, and less time consuming.
The floating book shop had a successful day. Not only did I make a lot more money than usual, I exchanged books with costumers and donors. The 84-year-old vet dropped off a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and was thrilled when I offered him the book on Judaic Mysticism that had caught his eye. A woman dropped off four pristine James Patterson hard covers and selected a paperback of Erica Spindler's Forbidden Fruit. Another woman, who has given me several books, chose a mystery for her sister, who will be undergoing knee replacement soon. A middle aged Russian woman bought three Sidney Sheldon novels, and spoke of her love of opera, which her father had bred into her as a little girl. But the highlight of the day was a deposit for a copy of Killing from Big All, local beat poet. He heard me mention it to someone else the other day and was immediately intrigued. He's a kind soul baffled by man's failure to resolve issues through dialogue. He believes this can change. History says otherwise. While mankind continues to create wonderful advances in technology and medicine, its basic character has not evolved. I hope Al is right, though.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/8

Although born way back in 1943, director/screenwriter Terrence Malick has made only five full length films through 2001. Each new one is eagerly awaited by fans and critics. I think he is on a different plane than most movie lovers, myself included. I have been baffled by most of his work: Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005) and The Tree of Life (2001), which I watched on DVD last night. It was a bold endeavor, done in an almost avant garde style that tries to capture the bittersweet mystery of life, focusing on a single family headed by Brad Pitt. It is told in brief clips, often in flashback, leaping across time the way the mind does. There is no plot, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are long stretches when it seems more like a National Geographic documentary than a movie. I was most impressed by the performance of young Hunter McCracken, the eldest of the three sons, whose character eventually becomes Sean Penn. He is troubled by the nasty impulses he experiences, which afflict all humans to varying degrees. I recommend it only to those who enjoy a challenge. I found myself looking at the clock a few times, wondering how much longer it had to go in its two-hour-plus running time. It's rated seven out of ten at IMDb. I'm not comfortable rating such a work, as I always feel I've missed something. It seems geared toward students of film rather than the general public. I've just added The Thin Red Line, which I liked with reservations, to my re-watch list at Netflix. It's more easily understood than most of Malick's work. It came out about the same time as Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, a far superior WWII film, at least to the average movie-goer. I am reluctant to view The New World, which focuses on the conflict between whites and Indians, a subject that bores me.
Weird - my PC is back to normal and I have no idea why. The last two sessions have been smooth as can be. Could it be due to something so simple as the change of a password? The 24-user network that adopted me is still there. Have they seen that I have nothing of value for them in my files? Have they already found what they were seeking? Has my surfing bored them into abandoning me? Was the slow down due to something else, the solar storm perhaps? Maybe the ringleader has gone on vacation.
I accompanied my friend to the doctor this afternoon. As we drove the route along Coney Island Avenue, then Avenue J, then Bedford Avenue upon our return, there were scores of adults and children dressed in costumes for the Jewish feast of Purim. My friend went into a bakery and treated me to a Hamantaschen, a cookie commemorating the event of Esther telling the Persian king of a plot hatched against Jews by his adviser, Haman. Mine was filled with raspberry. I'd had them before. My sister worked at Leon's Bakery for many years and brought them home. Now I know the story behind them.
Because of the appointment, the floating bookshop was open only a short time today. I thank the young man who purchased Joyce Meyer's The Confident Woman for his companion, and the young home attendant who purchased three Danielle Steele romances, and her two-year-old son Marcus, who gave me a fist bump, to the delight of his mom. And special thanks to Moses, who dropped off a bag of paperbacks, 90% of which were Steele and Sidney Sheldon. Although their condition is only fair, they're certainly marketable in bulk.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/7

I'm bummed and pissed at once. My PC has been hacked. It's now part of a network of 24 other users. Its performance has slowed to a crawl. I've gone from broadband to worse than dial-up. I think I know how they got in, too. I left the Live 365 and Martini in the Morning music streams open while I showered. It's nobody's fault but mine. These folks are diabolically clever. I've tried Recovery, Disconnect and a Re-install, and they all got nowhere. I visited forums and none of the experts seems to have a clue, which, I assume, is because they haven't caught up to the problems of the phenomenon of WiFi. Even in basic HTML mode my email is painfully slow. I am unable to do surveys, as the pages time-out repeatedly, which is infuriating, as that's how I earn money to buy copies of my books. I've run three scans, and no spy or malware has been found. Either a new version has been invented or the slow down is caused by all that traffic. And I wonder if they're after me financially. Are they following me around the net waiting for me to use my credit card or my Social Security number? This is a prime example of why I refuse to bank online, despite the convenience of it. Argh!!!!!!
Given my state of mind, I almost lost it when Political Man visited the floating bookshop and immediately began assailing Conservatives for their backwardness. He spends $500 a month on pot and still expects taxpayers to pick up the tab for his Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, despite the fact that his boyfriend is well to do. Today I learned that he had been the beneficiary of an annuity left him by his mother, which he also kept in his boyfriend's name so that he would remain eligible for government programs. "Everyone tries to get over, even illegal aliens," he said. "Why shouldn't a real American like me?" And here I am worrying that I will be doing the wrong thing come July 25th, the date I will receive my first Social Security check, even though I paid into the system for 39 years. Argh!!!!
Mr. Almost stopped by, which gave me an opportunity to ask him about some of the Russian books I had on display. One cover featured two males fishing in a river, the water up to their knees. It was a translation of Huck Finn. I immediately wondered how the writer tackled Jim's dialogue, which Mark Twain did in the vernacular of a slave, and which inspired me to go all out in the Brooklynese of the early drafts of Killing. "You have to learn Russian," Mr. Almost told me. I laughed. Minutes later a gentleman who wheels his one-year-old daughter by every day stopped and bought the book. The kid looks just like him. Spasibo, sir, and to the two other kind people who purchased books today.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/6

15 years or so ago, I bought shares of AOL, which was soon taken over by Time Warner. That proved to be fortuitous, as AOL began hemorrhaging customers, becoming an albatross for those who'd owned TW and a money-saver for those of us who'd bet on the internet portal. Eventually, TW split into two units, creating a TWC. Then they dumped AOL, which is trading independently again. So I now have 73 shares of TW, which pays dividends. Today I sold the 17 of TWC, which did not pay dividends. I have seven shares of AOL. It's gotten so complicated that I'm not sure how much I am down on the original purchase, but it is a lot less than it was. I've been expecting a major correction in the stock market. I hope I'm wrong.
When I went out for my daily walk this morning, I noticed a glint out of the corner of my eye on the opposite side of Avenue Z. Apparently, a vehicle had taken out the sides of the bus shelter. Glass was strewn along the sidewalk and street. It looked as if there'd been a hale storm. During the hot months, I set up shop just to the left of it, taking advantage of the shade cast by the apartment building right behind it. I've also thought the shelter might protect me if a car or bus happened to jump the curb, or at least give me time to get out of the way. Here's a picture of what it looked like before the clean up crew arrived, courtesy of the Sheepshead Bay Bites website:

The crew arrived a few minutes after I set up the floating bookshop. The building's maintenance staff had already swept up the sidewalk along the property. Everyone was amazed the crew had come the same day of the event. The truck did not have any MTA logos, so I assume the job was delegated to a private company, which would explain the speed of response. They did a great job. When they were done it almost seemed as if the thing had been installed without side walls. Many speculated as to what had happened. The most common guess was young Russian men speeding.
I sold nine books today. Seven were in Russian. Thanks, folks.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/5

It's my pleasure to announce the release on Kindle of a romance novel by my literary angel, January (Victoria) Valentine, Love Dreams. I had the privilege of editing it. It will soon be in print as well. Here's a synopsis:
The grisly past is dead and buried in Canada, still Sienna is chased by her ex, who is now a ghost. Michael is in for a wild ride when he falls for her, a grin on his handsome face, pain beneath his muscled abs. Can he go head to head with his competition, cunning Dr. Trainer and his private jet, when he's in a wheelchair? Michael's teen delivery boy turned confidante, coaches Michael through misery and blunders, accidentally sending him to into a second surgery when he slams him with his motorcycle. Will the confidence and sensuality she regained thanks to Trainer and London follow Sienna back home to Connecticut, and Michael's arms? Who will be the winner in this battle of sweet heat and damaged souls? Sensual contemporary romance. Not erotica.
Read more here:

Good luck, V.
Last night I was channel hopping and came upon a 2008 concert featuring my favorite party band, the B52s, on PBS. I'd had no idea they'd gotten back in the game, releasing their first album of new material since 1992, Funplex. It was a fun show. Original members Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson are no longer the sleek hipster goddesses they were, but they sing as well as ever. Pierson was particularly impressive on the highs of Planet Clare ("She drove a Plymouth Satellite - faster than the speed of light."). Front man Fred Schneider looks a lot older but is still first rate. I always believed their original guitarist, the late Ricky Wilson, Cindy's older brother, was under-rated. I loved his work on the early songs. Upon his death, drummer Keith Strickland picked up the ax. My favorite B52s song has become Good Stuff, from the 1992 album of the same name. It is a marvel of funk. Here's a video of an edited version. The original ran longer than six minutes.

I thank the kind folks who purchased books on Avenue Z & East 13th today, especially the woman who bought the huge tome on home medical remedies. What a relief not to have to carry it any more.
Read Vic's stories, free:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/4

I thank the kind folks who bought books on Bay Parkway today.
Here's another excerpt from a romantic comedy screenplay I wrote in the early '90's. In the scene a magazine writer, Kate, and a gold futures trader, Joe, meet for the first time. The story is inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the films of Tracy and Hepburn. It may seem long but it's mostly dialogue and often one word per character. Those who did not work on the Comex trading floor will wonder if such things happened. They did. The title is A Truth Universally Acknowledged, the opening line of Austen's masterwork.
   Part Three: The next afternoon.  The trading floor.  Dawn, an employee of the
Exchange, escorts Kate and a photographer, Russ, onto the floor.
   I'd really like it to be a self-made man, not someone who inherited his position.
   They pause.  Dawn gazes about, spots Joe leaning against his booth, newspaper in
hand.  She smiles.
   I have the perfect guy for you.  He's a real gentleman.
   She leads her to Joe, who smiles and lowers the paper.
   Hey, Dawny, what's up?
   Joe, this's Kate Austen, a magazine writer.  She's doing an article about traders.  Would you mind talking to her?
   Not at all.  My pleasure.  Nice to meet you.
   He extends his hand to Kate.  They shake.  Joe is intrigued.  Kate is too focused to be
thinking of physical attraction.
   I'll leave you two.  Call me if you need anything, Miss Austen.
   Kate does not respond.  Dawn exits smirking.
   You're welcome.
   Russ snaps a picture of Joe.
   This's Russ Simon, ambulance chaser, paparazzi wannabe.
   Russ smirks.
   Sounds like my kinda guy.
   I'll bet.
   Joe offers his hand.  Russ ignores it, snaps another shot.
   First some background ....
   The Gold pit.  Others have noticed the attractive visitor.  Sol cranes his neck.
   Is Woooy there?
   A large man, Barney, wearing a purple jacket (hence the knickname after the dinosaur),
raises onto his toes.
   Gotta be.  It's Joey.
   Several clerks call out: "Joe-ay!" "Joe-ay!" Joe, intent on Kate, is oblivious.  Kate,
intent on her work, likewise.
   Where'd you go to college?
   Joe flushes self consciously.
   I didn't go to college.  I have a GED.  I got kicked atta high school.  I was a real jerk back then.
Kate, sotto voce:
   As opposed to now?
   Joe's face does blank.  Kate makes a note in her pad as if nothing has passed between
them.  It reads: "GED."
   A lotta these guys didn't go to college.  They worked their way up.  If you'd rather talk
to a college guy I'd be glad to introduce you.  One of our guys went to Brown.
   Suddenly Kate shivers.
   Why is it so cold in here?
   To keep us all awake.  Here, put this over, your shoulders.
   He reaches for his trading jacket, which lays folded neatly in the booth.  Kate evades it.
   Ugh!  Polyester.
   Joe looks at his brother.  Their blank stares relate volumes.  Kate does not even notice. 
Russ ridicules her behind her back.
   The phone rings.  Bob answers, looks at Joe.
   Guido.  He wants to know what you think.
   There's resistance.
   Bob speaks into the phone and hangs up.  Kate makes a note in her pad: "Guido."
   Why is it so quiet today?
   Gold's not what it useta be.  Low inflation, low interest rates - there's nothin' to move
the market on a consistent basis, so there's not much demand.
   So the hope of every gold trader is high inflation and high interest rates?
   Joe looks at Bob, who, irked, walks away
   Those things're beyond our control.  We just react to 'em.  You can still make a decent
livin' here, but you won't get rich.  If you want action you should go over to oil.  You'll
get all you went there.
   Do you have something to hide?
   Joe chuckles, beside himself.  Russ is still shooting.  Kate, losing patience, swats him
with her pad.
  That's enough.  Get some shots of the pit.
   Russ walks away, giving her a dirty look.
   I can't believe I .... What was I thinking?
   Joe's eyebrows arch briefly, as he understands the implication.
   I been askin' myself that a lot lately, too.
   Kate looks away, regretting having thought aloud.
   You know, Miss, I know reporters're supposed to be tough,
but I get the feelin' you already got your mind made up about us.
   You're wrong.
   Russ is shooting the sparse activity in the gold pit.  Clerks mug for the camera.  Across the ring, Sol notices, points at him.
   Look - it's Dennis Hopper in "Apocalypse Now.'
   Russ gives a thumbs up, smiles, snaps a picture of Sol, who motions him to approach. 
Clerks begin alerting one another with nods and jerks of the head, as if something
outrageous is about to occur.  Others titter in anticipation.  Someone shouts out: "Make
'im suck it, Solly."
   Who do you work for?
   "Ballbuster Magazine."
   Sol throws his head back and laughs.
   My wife's favorite.
   A cry of "Sol-ly!" "Sol-ly!" goes up.  Barney steps into the line of sight between Kate
and Russ, pulling a broker toward him from each side.
   Better be careful. She looks like a lawsuit waitin' to happen.
   Others continue to egg Sol on.  Everyone is watching in anticipation. Sol, who is
standing on the top step of the pit, towering above Russ, who is standing just outside of it, puts a hand on Russ' shoulder and bends toward his ear.
   How's the referee start the football game?
   How's the referee start the football game?
   Russ stares, puzzled.  Sol seizes him by the scruff of the neck.
   He blows the whistle?
   He proceeds to yank Russ' head toward his crotch several times in succession. (This
should be shot from a distance so as not to overly offend the elderly and the folks in
(Peoria). Russ is helpless under the powerful grasp. The area erupts in laughter. Sol
relents and Russ storms away, fuming.
   Kate hears the commotion, looks toward the pit.  Joe represses laughter, sensing what
has occurred.  Russ approaches the booth, muttering.
   Did you see that?
   What happened?
   Russ thinks better of exposing his humiliation to her.
   Never mind.
   Kate looks at Joe.
   What was that all about?
   Joe feigns ignorance.
   His arrogance probably got him into trouble again.  He's such a jerk.  Anyway, where were we?
   You were askin' me if I steal from little ol' ladies.
   Kate does not laugh.
   In Sol's booth a clerk is filling a paper plate with shaving cream.
   This's beautiful.  He's so wrapped up tryin' to impress that chick he'll never see it
   Back to Kate and Joe.
   So basically you count on your customers' ignorance?
   Joe stares at her a moment.
   Some do make money.
   There's risk involved.  They all know that, or they're livin' in some dream world. 
Anybody lookin' to score's gotta take risks.  That's life.  If you want a guarantee you
should put your money in a bank.
   Many say traders are sleezeballs.
   Are you one of 'em?
   My opinion is irrelevant.  Joe looks away.
   Yeah, I believe that.  You got big ones, Miss, I'll give you that.
   I take that as a "yes," then.
   Is it gonna make a difference?  Look, a lotta great people work down here, no matter
what you might think.
    Nearby, Sol lurks, pie in hand.  He pauses, hiding in the next booth, then springs toward Joe.
   Happy birthday, jerky boy.
   Sol stumbles, giving Joe a chance to duck.  Sol misses his target and puts the pie in
Kate's face.  Everyone but Russ freezes as she stands there with the paper plate stuck to
her face.  The only sound is the clicking of the camera.  Kate brushes the shaving cream
out of her eyes with her fingers and creates a funny face that sets people roaring.  Joe
grabs the polyester jacket and wipes her down.  Kate pushes him away.
   Get away from me!
   Suddenly a pie comes from a different direction and slams Joe right in the puss.  He is
blinded by the soap.  People break into "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,
happy birthday, dear Jerky, happy birthday to you." He laughs, still blinded.
   Kate and Fuss storm through the center aisle.
   Stick it to these morons.  Hit 'em where it hurts, tar 'n feather 'em, boil 'em in oil.
   Kate is so irate she is unable to articulate her feelings.  She is stared and laughed at by 
everyone she passes.
Read Vic's stories, free: