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Monday, April 30, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/30

My reaction when I saw that another Planet of the Apes films had been issued was skepticism, derision. When I noted the positive reviews for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was still not convinced. I reluctantly added it to my Netflix list. I'm glad I did. Despite its outrageous storyline and the one-dimensional portrayal of many of the human characters, the film was riveting and exciting. It is not at all like its early predecessors in the series. I did not see the most recent remake of the original. The plot is fresh.The original was fun, but silly and unconvincing. Rise... is deadly serious, and the cast and crew really sell it. James Franco must be given credit for starring in a movie where he must have known he would play second banana to monkeys. John Lithgow and Brian Cox lend their usual solid support. But the real star is the remarkable Andy Serkis, the man behind the chimp, Caesar, whose stare, the smoldering rage behind it, is frightening. Serkis also portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, and he made an uncredited appearance on my favorite TV show, MI5, during season three. The folks at IMDb rated Rise... 7.7 out of ten. On a scale of five, I rate it four. Kudos to director Rupert Wyatt in only his second stint at the helm, and screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. The production crew constituted an army and did a wonderful job. The CGI stuff had such authenticity. Here are pictures of Serkis and Gollum:
Round Two of the golf season was rather unusual. Although my score improved by eight shots, 92, it was due to several lucky bounces and good putting. I hit twice as many bad shots as good, but when you drop in a couple of 30-footers and a chip shot it makes bad play look much better than it was. Somehow I made two birdies, but I triple-bogied two par threes, my iron-play pathetic.  As for my buddy Cuz, he was all over the place and did not crack 100. The floating book shop will re-open tomorrow, if the rain ends in the morning, as forecast.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/29

My favorite part of the NFL draft is seeing which player is selected last, dubbed Mr. Irrelevant by the press. This year there were 253 picks, and the honor of last man standing went to Chandler Harnish, a QB out of Northern Illinois. He should not fret. Two recent Mr. I's have done well in pro ball. David Vobora has played four years for two different teams, mostly as a member of special teams, and Ryan Succop has been the Chiefs' field goal kicker, making an impressive 81% of his attempts. I guess I relate to them so well because I'm close to being the Mr. Irrelevant of writers.
I reached a milestone of sorts today. I've always been intrigued by stats. Each year I eagerly awaited for my buddy Bags to finish reading his copy of Bill James' late, lamented Baseball Abstract. I was and am still a believer in Sabermetrics, although it is not perfect, of course. I would record my personal softball statistics, although there were times I wished I hadn't, so embarrassing were they. I'd record those of the teams I managed too. I keep close track of book sales, both in overall dollar value and the number of copies sold of my own books. Carmine, a gregarious senior citizen, happened by the floating book shop for the first time in a while today. He was thrilled that I had a new book available, and bought Killing. It was the 600th copy of my four books that I've sold. Carmine recommended A Hitch in Twilight to two people who stopped to see what was what. Alas, they did not bite, but actor-singer extraordinaire Johnny Feets did. He has finally found a roommate to share his Bensonhurst apartment and again has some discretionary income to spend. He purchased Close to the Edge three, perhaps four years ago. Thanks, gentlemen, and also to the other kind folks who purchased books.
Here's how the tally breaks down: Close to the Edge - 348; A Hitch in Twilight - 116; Adjustments - 114; Killing - 23. This does not include the three recent web sales of Killing, for which I have yet to be paid. Crazy, I know. Maybe I am the Mr. Irrelevant of authors. Be that as it may - on to 700!
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/27

Mother Nature seems confused. We had May-like weather in March, and now March-like weather in April. Today's stiff breeze was a nuisance to the floating book shop. I hadn't felt as cold since February. Fortunately, a few people stopped to either chat or make a purchase. Jack came limping along on his arthritic knee. He was forgoing his Occupy Wall Street T-shirt business in deference to the wind, which is brutal in lower Manhattan. He had an eight-and-a-half by eleven yellow envelope with him, which he opened to reveal two drawings, one bearing his image. He made them on his computer. They were really nice. He plans to make 2x3 posters out of them to sell for ten bucks a pop. He was all smiles minutes later upon his return from the print shop across the street. The charge would be a $1.50 per, a profit of 85%. I teased him that he was, deep down, a capitalist, just as I've teased Bob Rubenstein, author of the anti-capitalist novel The White Bridge, who had the students of his course on racism buy each of his novels. Maybe they, like Hollywood leftists, believe that art is superior and therefore more worthy of the public's hard earned money than big businesses. Jack has been dubbed Mr. Glass-Steagall by his occupy comrades for his constant citing of the 1999 repeal of the depression era act, which he blames for the financial crisis. The law was put in place in 1933 to prevent banks from engaging in risky investments with depositors' funds. It's pros and cons have been debated for decades. I don't know what to make of it, although I always tilt toward deregulation. I believe in capitalism, not crony capitalism where certain firms are bailed out by government, but pure capitalism where those who are successful - and legal - stay in business, those who fail do not, and those who break the law are jailed or fined heavily.
Speaking of capitalists, one of the world's favorites is having a tough time in the sport in which he excelled as a player. Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats, which finished with the worst record in NBA history, 7-59 (strike-shortened season, remember), a winning percentage of .106. The team lost its last 23 straight. Jordan won six championships as the driving force of the Chicago Bulls. All together now: "What goes around comes around." Life has a unique way of balancing the ledger. I've always loved that saying, maybe because I hope all the work I put in on my literary quest will one day pay off. It became popular at the same time as one I hate: "Not for nothin'."
Also on the money front: there is a website where the public can make donations to George Zimmerman's legal obligations. Although my instincts tell me he is guilty of nothing more than self defense, this adds another ugly layer to an issue that is going to end badly no matter the outcome. To date, $200,000 has been raised.
My thanks to the kind folks who braved the wind to buy books today, and to Marie, who said she was deeply affected by The Power of Prayer, a story in A Hitch in Twilight. It is the favorite of my niece Isabel, who said: "That one really got to me for some reason." Hearing things like that makes all the frustration worth it - at least for a few minutes.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/26

Not much action today at the floating book shop, especially compared to yesterday. My thanks to the gentleman who purchased a booklet on Scorpios.
Here's an excerpt from a one act play I wrote at least ten years ago, possibly 20. It can be subtitled Putting Words into the Mouths of Great Dead White Men, (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Frankin, Tolstoy, Twain, Henry Miller, Beethoven, Mozart, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, Dickens, Darwin). Only one person bothered to rate it at the site where it's posted - an irate female gave it one star out of five. The actual title is The Last Laugh.

In a vast, infinite place of pitch darkness hangs a huge television screen, seemingly suspended in space.
George: What's new is old, Tom.
Tom: Everything changes, Georgie, and it somehow all seems the same. Is that paradox, Sam?
Sam: Ask the pair of docs.
Tom and George chuckle. Others groan.
Sam, irked: Every line can't be a gem. "Tough crowd, tough crowd," as that old comedian would say.
Leo: Sssssh!
Tom: Aw, lighten up, Leo.
Leo mutters in Russian, which the others understand perfectly.
Tom: Same to you.
George: Ignore him. He's been dead a hundred years. He's not going to change. Whoever said that character is destiny didn't know how right he was.
Tom: True, isn't it? We haven't changed, either. Is that irony, Sam?
Sam: We don't do ironing here.
More groans arise.
Leo: Somebody stop them before I go mad.
Sam: Damn, I wish I had a cigar right, even a cheap one. So many years in the grave and I still have the craving. That characteristic has certainly been a part of my destiny.
Ben: Soon they'll be arresting anyone who lights up in public. Can you imagine that - after all tobacco's done for the Republic?
Sam: Never happen, Benny.
Ben: Mark my words. They're fanatics.
Sam: Do you miss anything?
Ben: I was just thinking how wonderful a glass of the finest port'd be.
Walt, dreamily: An open field; lilacs blooming.
Tom: I can't see you, Walter, but I know it's you. I bet I can identify anybody here, if not by the sound of his voice, by what he says. Try me.
Herm: Sails billowing against the sunset.
Tom: Herm.
Hank: A shack in the woods. A cool, deep, pond.
Tom: Too easy, my friend. One of you non-Americans try.
Miller: You're all nuts. Gimme a night with the likes of an Elle or Cindy, or both.
Laughter explodes. Catcalls and whistles fill the air, drowning out those who protest.
Tom: Henry, you are priceless.
Leo: Barbarians.
Focus returns to the screen. Suddenly the atmosphere is grim.
Wolfie: I vant my MTV.
Luddy: Don't you dare, Wolfie. Stay away from the remote.
Wolfie: Ah, Luddy, you are so square.
Again silence predominates. It is broken by a whirr and smack.
Leo: Kraut dog! One more and ....
Sniggering arises.
Tom: Are you firing imaginary spitballs again, Wolfie? Siggy, you better talk to him. There must be some latent desire behind that.
Wolfie: Of course - to have fun. I didn't worry about how I might be perceived when I was alive - why should I worry about it when I'm dead?
George, amazed: How does he do that?
Tom: Cut him some slack, Lee. Every class has to have its clown or the world'd be the dullest place.
Leo's muttering ceases at the sight of carnage around the world. The mood again darkens.
Tom: You'd have no shortage of people to nurse, Walter.
Walt: But why doesn't any of it have the magnificence of our Civil War? And not a Lincoln in sight to raise spirits.
Abe: I knew Lincoln, and Lincoln was no Lincoln.
Subdued laughter ensues.
George: Always loved your delivery, Abe. I wish I'd had that. These days you'd be making millions on T.V..
Abe: You didn't do so bad.
Ben: How would you explain the carnage, Doc?
Tom: Natural selection, Charlie?
Charles: Which Charlie?
Tom, irked: Not you. If we were discussing the great novel, I'd ask you. You're Charles - he's Charlie. How many times do we have to go over this? Common sense, man.
Thomas: Did someone call me?
Tom: No, Thomas. A little miscommunication, I'm afraid.
Thomas, disappointed: Oh.
Charles: Terribly sorry. Sorry, really I am.
Miller: Damn, I hate that about the English. "Sorry," "Sorry." Do something terrible before you apologize.
Leo: Like steal two-thirds of the world from its rightful owners.
Ralphie: "We will bury you," "We will bury you." As if injustice is exclusive to a single race. And at least the English advanced civilization, not set it backward.
There is grumbling in the background. 

RIP Pete Fornatale, 66, long time radio voice at progressive rock station WNEW-FM in New York. 
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/25

I'd first heard about Cowboys and Aliens (2011), months before its release, through a survey site, where I was asked to rate a two-minute trailer. At first I scoffed at the title. Then I thought: Why not? Who's to say when, where, if we've ever been visited? Why not the old west? The trailer looked great, as even those of the worst films frequently do. I was disappointed when critics panned and the U.S. public ignored the film. So it was with reservations that I added it to my Netflix list. I enjoyed the first hour, but smirked when what the aliens were seeking was revealed. Although the cast was solid, it was not required to do much. It was standard action fare, although I must say the fighting sequences were excellent. This was the first time I've experienced the work of Olivia Wilde, whose beauty frequently graces the pages of the NY Post. Her skills could not be assessed in such an undemanding, silly role. And I was too mesmerized by her bewitching eyes to pay attention to much else. As for old favorite Harrison Ford, there were a few instances where I thought this had to be his worst performance. Seasoned pros Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine lend able to support. Daniel Craig is in phenomenal shape, seemingly carrying as little body fat as humanly possible. He must work out like a madman. Overall, the flick was a better option than spinning around the remote for two hours, watching bits and pieces of shows I'm not interested or have already seen. The folks at IMDb rate it 6.2 out of ten. Although the movie flopped in America, it ended with a small profit worldwide. There was an oddity I hadn't encountered previously on the DVD. When I tried to access the bonus material, a message popped up saying it was available only on the Blue Ray version. I thought that was bush league. On a scale of five, I rate Cowboys and Aliens two-and-a-half.
A dead whale washed up on the shores of Puget Sound in the state of Washington. An autopsy was performed. There was, among other debris, a golf ball in its stomach. Although there was no word that it was a Titleist, we now know where Cosmo Kramer has gone. Apparently he's still using the ocean as a driving range. In the words of George Costanza: "The sea was angry that day, my friends."
The floating book shop had a great day. I didn't sell any of my books, but a young woman bought six James Patterson hard covers, Lev purchased four others, and several other people contributed to the cause. Thanks, folks. There was one troublesome aspect. Morty, a retired salesmen in his late 70's, visited and told me he is to begin radiation treatment to shrink a growth beneath the right side of his jaw. I warned him of the fatigue a friend and my brother in law experienced during the process. I didn't have the heart to tell him how it affected their ability to think. Despite his age, Morty is energetic and sharp. I wish him the best. Also, another senior, a female cancer survivor using a walker, who faces operations on her legs, told me she was going home to smoke a joint to reduce the stress she was feeling. We both laughed.
Finally, my buddy Bags pulled his car up to the curb, popped out, and took a picture of the floating book shop in its usual nook. It looks even better enlarged. And here it is:

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/24

Every now and then in the letters to the editor in the NY Post there appears a gem. The New York airports, JFK and LaGuardia, attract a lot of birds. Occasionally, some will strike a plane, most famously the one Captain "Sully" so deftly landed in the Hudson. A few days ago another was struck on take-off. The passengers panicked, as the smell of smoke filled the cabin. The jet immediately returned to the airport, landing safely, no one injured. It seems politicians are waiting for a catastrophic crash before doing what needs to be done, that is, kill the birds before they're responsible for the death of hundreds.Today a creative soul out of Stamford, Connecticut came up with a wonderful solution that had me laughing out loud - windmills! This kills two birds with one stone, so to speak: first, it is a politically correct, clean energy solution even the most strident protestors would embrace; two, windmills kill birds by the thousands. Kudos, sir. Wit is a wonderful thing.
My thanks to Susan, who purchased a copy of Killing. She warned me that she does not usually like the work of male writers. I'd be very surprised if she liked the novel, which is extremely masculine. I assured her I wouldn't be offended. I suggested her husband, a World War II veteran, read it. Their tastes in literature are completely opposite. We got to talking about the subjective nature of art and I suddenly recalled a comment a woman left at about one of my stories, before the site starting eliminating many of them, forcing me to post them at "I can't believe a guy wrote this." The story was either Trade-Offs or Heart vs. Head. At first I thought: Great; she was touched, then I wondered if she thought I was unmanly and was peeved momentarily. Many scoff at any show of male sensitivity. There have been several times in my life that I regret having shown it and cringe at the thought of how unmanly I had behaved. The situations hadn't warranted tears. They were not anywhere near out of the realm of the average, near what some unfortunates suffer in this life. I hope that I have learned, evolved, and that some day before I die I will finally get right what it is to be a man.
Vic's stories at Fictionaut:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/23

Jon has been visiting the floating bookshop since it became a daily occurrence at the end of 2007. He has been kind enough to purchase Close to the Edge and Killing. He is a retired English teacher who self-published two novels years ago through a printer. It was a disappointing and costly experience. He has picked my brain about doing books digitally. I suggested he try Kindle, which does not entail a fee. He wasn't satisfied with it, so he took his latest manuscript to Book Locker. He paid a considerable fee to have it put into print. I did not ask how much, but I would guess, including copies he purchased, it's in the range of $2000. That may seem like a lot, but spread out over time it's really a paltry sum, as it provides a sense of adventure - as long as the endeavor is kept in proper perspective. The chances of it, or any self-published book, breaking out are slim. There are eight million books available at Amazon. I hope he realizes this and doesn't let a lack of sales embitter him. The novel is off to a good start, as its ranking is 375,000th. It will be even higher, as I just ordered a copy, using gift certificate money I've amassed through survey sites. Best of luck, Jon, or should I say Ole Romer? Can't wait to read it.
Here's the cover, done by his niece:

More info here:
The floating bookshop went to Plan B today. The forecast said showers. The sky was threatening. The car and three crates full of books was parked halfway down the block. It would have been too much of a hassle if it started raining, so I went all Russian, bringing a box out from the closet, in which a lucky 13 books were left. I sold six of them, including two translations of Robert Heinlein, one of the most successful sci-fi writers of all-time, purchased by Mr. Almost, whose name I finally remembered to ask - Michael or Mikhail.
Spasibo, folks.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/22

It's time for rain-out theater. Here's another excerpt from a screenplay I wrote in the '90's. It's a thriller titled All Hallows and takes place in a small town, where five inmates have escaped from an asylum. I think of it as Revenge of the Townies.

    Part Three: An old car cruising residential streets. Rick Nelson, a college senior
dressed in full punk rock regalia, is singing at the wheel.                                                                                  
   "I got a date with her at midnight/ underneath the full moon./She dresses all in black/ And wears a red rose in her hair./ She kisses me so tender,/As I fall under her spell./ She makes me feel so good/ I think I'll follow her to bell./ I got a date with a vampire girl tonight."
   He stops before a modest home.  Inside, in a room upstairs, Ginny Jones, a pretty girl dressed as a vampire, is seated before a mirror, applying the final touches of her makeup.  She jumps up at the sound of a car born.  Her mother calls from
Mrs. Jones:
   Ginny. Rick's here.
    Thanks, Mom.
    In the living room, Ginny's little brother and sister, in pajamas, are engrossed in a
Vincent Price horror movie.  Ginny sneaks up behind the couch, growls, spreads the
cape, and shows her fangs.
     I vant to suck your blood.
     The children play along, scream and rise. She chases them through the kitchen, past their mother at the sink and their father, who is at the table, reading the local newspaper, whose headline reads: "Authorities Promise Quiet, Safe Halloween." The adults beam as Ginny chases the children back into the living room. The car horn sounds again.
Mr. Jones:
   Hold your hormones!
Mrs. Jones:
      He smirks, returns to the paper. Ginny calls from the front door.
    Bye, Mom, bye Dad.
Mrs. Jones:
      Bye, hon.  Have a good time.  I know you won't do anything foolish or destructive.
    Oh, Mom.
Mr. Jones:
    Tell Joe College I want you home before the witchin' hour.
Ginny :
     That's all night tonight, Daddy.
Mr. Jones:
       You know what I mean, lady.
    Mrs. Jones gives her husband a scolding look.
Mr. Jones:
     I don't like him, Alice.
Mrs. Jones:
     Nonsense. I think he's the one who's gonna. take her from us.
     Mr. Jones smirks.
     Ginny hurries to the car. Rick is leaning against it in a surly pose. Ginny bursts into laughter. Rick is thrilled with her reaction.
     I told you you'd be surprised.
    Oh, my God! The President of the Senior Class a punk rocker - it's too much. Good
thing my dad didn't see you.
   The house. Mr. Jones, peering through blinds, smirks.
Mr. Jones:
    Alice, where're those anti-acid tablets?
   The car, on the road now.
   Whattaya say we take a detour to lover's lane?  The party can wait .
     No way, Jose.
    C'mon. We've been goin' together for six months now.
    And you want our first time to be in a parked car, dressed like this? Puleeze.
    Are you a virgin?
    She makes a face, indicating neither yes nor no.
    You're twenty years old. What're you waitin' for?
   She looks out the passenger window.
Ginny :
   Can't we just have some good clean fun?
    The heart says yes, the hormones say no.
    Ginny is unable to suppress a smile. Rick stares at her.
    I suppose I should be happy Osbourne Junior never had you.
    He's not the jerk you think be is. He's a perfect gentleman.
     Then why'd you break up with him?
     I met somebody I liked better.
     Rick smiles broadly, mollified.
     By the way, you look mahvelous.
     Ginny smiles, blushing.
Thank you.

         Part Four: The police station. The Sheriff bursts in.
     Got that info, Angel?
     Right here.
    Angel, in her late thirties, blessed with an earthy beauty, is seated at her post.  A
volume of the works of Edgar Allen Poe lays open, face down, on her desk. She is
dressed in sweats, a T-shirt of Lon Chaney as "the Wolfman" over her sweatshirt. 
There is a modest crucifix around her neck.
    D'you make copies?
    Collated and stapled in the upper left hand corner.
    You're the best.
    She sips at a cup of coffee. He scans the photographs. A frown comes to his face. The Titterer is not among them.
Sheriff :
    Damn, still five out there. Then again, why should things be easy?
    Angel rises and pours him a cup of coffee.
Sheriff :
     Thanks. Gonna be a long night, and Andy's down.
      I made you a thermos.
     They gaze at each other. There is a smoldering sexual tension between them. He
returns to the files.
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/21

The ultimate nightmare occurred to the parents of six-year-old Etan Patz 33 years ago. He went missing. To this date, he has not been found, although there has been a prime suspect almost from day one. That beautiful little boy's smiling picture is back in the media this week, as the NYPD and FBI are excavating a basement very near his former Greenwich Village home. There have been several disappointments, dead ends, through the years. Perhaps there will finally be closure to this gut-wrenching case. I can only imagine what it must do to his family.
With rain in the forecast for the next 48 hours or so, I decided to forgo my weekly visit to my buddy Bags in order to get in as much time as possible today with the floating book shop. When I left the house at 10 AM, it looked like it was about to pour. By the time the chores and lunch was done at noon, the sun was shining. As I was setting up, someone called my name. Richie, one of my charges from my days coaching football, was double-parked in his SUV. He'd brought me a large box of popular books, both hard and soft cover. He had to hurry back to the liquor store he opened almost two years ago. His girlfriend works it during the week while he manages a car dealership. He holds down the fort on the weekend. He was always a hard worker and exemplary kid. I can't believe he's 50. Thanks, pal.
For the first two hours it looked like it would be a disappointing session, as even my regulars did not  buy anything. Then customers suddenly came "in droves", as the late, great Classie Freddie Blassie might have said. I sold some of the books Richie donated and many more. Still, the crates were crammed. I had to get across Bay Parkway and onto 84th Street, about 100 yards back and forth with the three crates. My arms are still sore and probably an inch or two longer. I guess I should use that luggage carter that's in the basement of the old house. I just hate the thought of putting something else into the trunk of the car. Or maybe I'm leery of it seeming unmanly, being as silly as we were in elementary school, when we called a briefcase a "fag bag" or "punk trunk." For some bizarre reason, we thought we should be carrying our school things only in hand.

Thanks, folks, and also to whoever it was who bought Killing on Kindle this past week. Two sales in two weeks - I hope this is the start of something big.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/20

Bill O'Reilly's column appears in the op-ed pages of the NY Post every Friday. Today he focused on a report that detailed the charitable giving of politicians. The Obamas were generous, giving 22% of their earnings. VP Biden, on the other hand, gave only 1.46%. In 2011, Mitt Romney donated 19% of the 21 million he earned. If my math is right, that comes to about four million. The all-time miser is Al Gore, who in 1997 gave $353 on a salary of $200,000 and a trust fund worth gazillions. The Clintons were generous, despite having to pay exorbitant legal fees. One year, the supposedly evil Dick Cheney donated 77% of his earnings, almost seven million dollars.
Conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher was scheduled for a colonoscopy today. I've had two. The first was a breeze, the second was not. The worst part is fasting the day before and drinking the yucky concoction that clears out the system. Anyway, the station ran a Best of show. One segment was from 2011. I don't know how I missed the story, as several friends on my email list often send items about threats to second amendment rights. On May 8th at 4:30 AM, two masked gunmen stormed into a Walgreens in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The pharmacist was also armed and fired at the assailants, who fled, leaving a revolver behind. The pharmacist was subsequently fired, a corporate decision. He is suing. There is video available at youtube and other sites. I will not be shopping at Walgreens, even though the incident occurred hundreds of miles from Brooklyn.
The floating book shop had a variety of customers today. I thank everyone for being so charitable, especially the cutie who overpaid for Stieg Laarsen's worldwide sensation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was passed by the man who was led away in handcuffs by plainclothesmen on Tuesday. Michael, who lives a couple of floors above me and has donated scores of books in Russian to me, believes the guy was trafficking marijuana, and that it wasn't his first offense. The war on drugs is an abysmal failure, costing billions. Even staunch conservative George Will has questioned the fight. In two recent editorials he suggested that legalization might be a saner course. It would certainly be cheaper, although abuse and addiction would no doubt increase. It's not an easy question. None of the important ones are.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/19

John Grisham is one of the most successful authors of all time, his books selling more than 250 million copies and translated into numerous languages. Eight of his novels have been adapted to film. I finally got around to sampling his work, reading The Appeal (2008). I didn't like it. The major problem is that one side of the case in question is egregiously guilty of wrongdoing. That robs it of the conflicts that make art interesting. It becomes a David and Goliath story, and the only drama is if the evil corporate forces will get their comeuppance or win out. Of course, there has been and likely always will be much hanky-panky by big business, but, when the wrongdoing is so clear, it's a better fit for journalistic expose`. Whether the reader likes the book or not may come down to his overall opinion of the legal profession. I view lawyers of all stripes as a necessary evil, not heroes. This novel is a cautionary tale, at the end showing the consequences of having a court partial to the interests of business, the little guy at the mercy of corporate malfeasance. Although there is nothing implausible in the plot, I believe the problem at present is that our society has become overly litigious, and I don't see anything that threatens that. Of course, there may be a maneuvering behind the scenes, as occurs in the novel. The political and legal machinations are its strengths. The prose and dialogue are solid. The author betrays his bias throughout the book. On a scale of five, I rate The Appeal two.
Here's an example of what I mean by the conflict that makes compelling art. On last night's episode of MI5, broadcast on PBS, it is revealed that a young woman working for the London headquarters of a Russian company had been recruited to spy on it three years ago. She is outed, barely escapes, and is taken to a safe house. Although the agency manages to stop the man doing the outing and counters with a story that it was a hoax, the woman is still in danger. She is handed an envelope filled with money by the section chief and left to her own wits. The agency does not want the Russians to know they were being spied on. She can't believe she is being abandoned. She says something like: "You lied to me, Karen. You said you'd protect me." The section chief looks at her and says, calmly: "My name is not Karen, and I don't know you." And she walks away. Her name is Erin. The good guys in the dirty, cold-blooded business that is spying know that fine people will occasionally be burned for the greater good, and it sets off an inner debate in the viewer. That is art. The fate of the woman is not revealed. Not so one of the regulars, who is killed off. I wonder what the actual death rate is for British spies on UK soil. I sense it is rare. It is frequent on this great series. Even it has its flaws.
Mark visited the floating bookshop today, sweating up a storm at the end of a long jog. He told me how much he liked Mother, the most recent story of A Hitch in Twilight he has read. He asked what I was trying to say, as if there might be deeper meaning. Although my intent, which I won't reveal here, was simple, there are Biblical references I knew the reader might interpret as symbolic. I used them as color. Although the story was fun to write, I'm not sure it's successful. The mystery of the universe cannot be boiled down to a 2000 word story. We got to talking about the subjective nature of art, of how 100 readers might interpret a work in 100 ways. He mentioned The Old Man and the Sea, whose meaning has been debated for decades. Mark recently read an article by Hemingway himself, which said the huge fish was symbolic of the body of his work, and the predators that reduce it to a skeleton the critics who savaged him. Fascinating. Thanks, Mark, and to the folks who purchased books today.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/18

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who at 49 years, 150 days has become the oldest winning pitcher of a major league baseball game. The previous mark was set in 1932 by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers at 49/70. It was Moyer's 268th victory, which ties him with Orioles' Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for 34th place on the all-time wins list. It's doubtful that Moyer will ever be elected to the HOF, as it has taken him almost 25 seasons to amass his totals, but it is still amazing that he is able to pitch at the highest level at his age, even though MLB has been watered down by expansion. I had trouble playing softball as I approached 40.
Also on the sports front: the entire starting five, two sophomores, three freshmen, of Kentucky's national champion basketball team has declared for the NBA draft, more proof of the ridiculousness of college athletics.
According to an article at Yahoo, last year a record 1800 Americans living abroad renounced their citizenship. Most cite onerous tax policy. They are forced to report the income and investments of foreign husbands, as well as their own. They pay taxes in two countries. Rapacious politicians seem to forget this country came into existence because of a tax revolt.
Kim Kardashian has expressed interest in becoming the mayor of Glendale, California, one-quarter of whose population is of Armenian descent. Maybe there will be a President Kardashian some day. Of course, the comment was probably just another thing a reality star will say to draw attention to herself. I have to constantly remind myself not to draw conclusions from the worst of American society.
RIP Dick Clark, 82, the eternal teenager, who succumbed to a heart attack. It is estimated that he is responsible for 7500 hours of TV, including 30 series, 250 specials and 20 movies. Thank you, sir.
I witnessed a sad event today while operating the floating bookshop. I saw a man who runs a nearby convenience store led away in cuffs by two plainclothesmen. He lives in a house directly across the street from the building in which I live. I'd guess he's about 50 and of eastern descent. He has a family. I hope the infraction was something as minor as selling untaxed smokes. The officers were dressed as casually as could be, T-shirts and jeans. I would never have made them as cops. They looked like truckers or moving men.
Only four people bought books today. Mr. Almost was one. He was concerned at not having seen me in a while. He said: "At our age, you never know." Yikes!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/17

Writers love irony. I was back in business in my usual nook for the first time since last Wednesday. A lot of people stopped and asked where I'd been. One wondered if there was going to be a turf war, as Svetlana/Vivian has been hawking her fat burner there during my absence. I assured her there was not. I'm not out there to fight. I'll adapt and adjust. S/L arrived about a half hour after I did and set up shop near the bus shelter and did fine. She even bought a Wayne Dyer self-help book from me. I wanted her to have it free, as she donated a bunch of non-fiction business-oriented books a few months ago, but she insisted on paying. I feel guilty for not having purchased her product, although I certainly don't need it.
There I was, daydreaming, when a car pulled up to the bus stop. "Compatre," the driver called, exiting and opening his trunk. I've been saying hello to him since I first moved to the area in '88, although I've never learned his name. He lives on Sheepshead Bay Road, which leads to the waterfront promenade. He placed a large plastic bag and a medium sized cardboard box at the curb. "You gonna be rich," he quipped in his Latino accent. "I been looking for you for three days." I thanked him and he immediately drove away. He left a wide variety of books, both fiction and non. The first I noticed was a hardcover edition of Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. There was also a soft cover version. A right-winger was going to profit from a left-winger's book. Sure enough, both sold, and the buyers matched his constituency: a college student and a black woman.
There were also a number of booklets on cats among the donation. I put them in a stack on the ledge that runs along the garden in front of the apartment building. A Russian gentleman purchased all of them. Another, who loves cook books, purchased two. Another, who preference is thrillers, returned two and purchased two more. And another bought three novels in his native tongue. It looks like I'm going to have to sell the remainder of the Russian books at a steep discount. Most are sci-fi/fantasy, and woman are passing on them. I still have more than a hundred. Three for a dollar should get them moving. It's 100% profit, so it doesn't really matter what price I set. Thanks, folks.
The best thing about this day is that my hip is feeling no ill effects from yesterday's round of golf. I'll be able to play at least once more.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/16

For the first time in a year and a half, I played golf. Cuz, my former softball teammate and playing partner since 1986, summoned me in an email. I couldn't refuse. It was time to test my hip, which gave me so much trouble in late 2010 and has been 95% better lately.
The best part was catching up on news. Cuz has a sunny disposition that wins over everyone. In all the years I've known him, I remember only one time when he wasn't upbeat. I assumed he'd had a fight with his now ex-wife. He's put on a few pounds. He learned to cook in the Army and still loves it. He has graduated to full time chauffeur in his company, which means he has full medical coverage as well as a decent salary. He was let go from the Exchange about six months before I was, and really struggled to make ends meet. It's so good to see him ensconced. Lately, he's run into the likes of Debra Winger and Jodie Foster, and said both were nice to him. His son, Willie, has transferred from John Jay to Queens College. At one time it looked like he was going to try to join the FBI. He is now majoring in Physical Therapy, but his real ambition is to make the WWE wrestling organization. He is working out religiously and taking all sorts of supplements he gets a discount on through his job at a GNC. He has a tryout real soon.
The next best part of the day was seeing the staff at Forest Park: Bobby, the manager who assumed control around 1990 and improved the course 1000%; and John, who runs the concession; and Jimmy, a retired policeman who runs the desk. Jim had bypass three years ago and still feels tightness in his chest. Fortunately, his tests keep coming up clean. He's working out and again playing golf.
As for the golf, it was as I expected after such a long layoff, although the end result happened in odd fashion. For the first ten holes, I was playing at about the same level as where I'd left off. Then I had six straight triple bogies. I righted the ship the last two holes. The 18th is a short part five. I hit two great shots and had a 30 foot putt for eagle that I left a foot and a half short. I made the birdie. At the start I said I'd be happy if I broke 100. I shot exactly that. The course was playing short, as the dry conditions have made the ground hard. I'd thought distance would be a problem, given that I hadn't swung a club in so long. I was as long as ever. Unfortunately, the greens were lightning fast, which is unusual for Forest Park. I had a lot of three putts. I don't know if I'll ever break 90 as consistently as I used to. Right now it doesn't seem to matter. I want the game to be fun. I used to practice chipping on Friday, ball-striking on Saturday and putting on Sunday. I didn't practice at all leading up to today. Maybe my fire was quelled by that one day at Douglaston several years ago when I put it all together and shot 77. I hope so. My ultimate goal was to break 80, and I sometimes got really stupid in the effort. Cuz still teases me about some of the things I did when frustrated by poor play. He laughs off a bad shot and goes at the next hell bent for leather. No one has a better attitude. That's why I love him. He shot 92 today.

The floating book shop will re-open tomorrow.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/15

I re-watched The Departed (2006) last night, courtesy of Netflix. I'm glad I did. As is the case with many of Martin Scorsese's films, it improves with the second viewing, once the shock of the violence, profanity and cynicism become secondary to the engrossing story and wonderful performances. Leonardo DiCaprio is not appreciated enough. He is terrific, as usual. The film is actually a remake of Internal Affairs (Hong Kong, 2002), which I have not seen. Viewers will be forced to figure out a few instances in the plot that remain unexplained. It does not detract from the power of this near great endeavor, which won Oscars for Best Film, Editing, Directing and Screenplay (William Monahan). I chose it over PBS' airing of Howard Hawks' classic screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby (1938), starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. I prefer drama to comedy. I can't get into sitcoms, which seem nothing more than set-ups for one-liners. Friends is one of the most revered and critically acclaimed shows of all time. So far I haven't been able to watch more than a minute at a time. I had the same trouble initially with Seinfeld, not because of one-liners, but because I couldn't stand a lot of the things George did. When I finally got inured to him, I realized the show's genius. It is a penetrating look at modern life and, in the case of Mr. Costanza, a reflection of impulses that tempt most of us but that we almost always reject. Jason Alexander was made rich by that role. He earned every penny. I don't know that any character, especially in a sitcom, was ever made to look as pathetic as George Costanza. It is amazing that viewers have such affection for him. There is no other character like him. I suppose Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm, who co-created Seinfeld, is George's doppelganger, but that seems merely a continuation of the role.
The floating bookshop had a visit from actor-singer extraordinaire Johnny Feets today, baseball cards in tow. He had two auditions over the weekend for off-Broadway roles and shows signs of tiring of the artist's life, of not being paid to act. Staying in character, he purchased a baseball bloopers video. Thanks, buddy. My only two other customers were elderly Russian women. One bought a book on dance and a video in her native tongue, and the other bought three novels in Russian. Spasibo, ladies.
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/14

As I was trolling my Facebook page this morning, I came across a quote of crystalline logic posted by a former gold trader on the NYMEX trading floor. Here it is:
 "Fathom the Hypocrisy of a Government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured... but not everyone must prove they are a citizen." - Ben Stein
Thanks, Frankie.
Here's an excerpt from a short story, Matthew's Sins, that was published 20 years ago:

 Matthew dreamed he was floating, no longer burdened by aged, arthritic limbs and joints. Although he was amongst clouds, unable to see the heavens or earth, he was unafraid, smiling. Here, drifting like a kite that had broken from its string, he did not feel lonely, isolated though he was. He was like a child at play, chuckling. He lent no resistance, allowing the mysterious force that had seized him to take him wherever it wished. It was infinitely better than what he'd had. In fact, he hoped he would never awaken.
   He spied a huge golden gate in the distance. His pace slowed. Soon he was hanging suspended in the air. He gazed about, wondering how this was possible. He was unable to see beyond the gate, as the clouds were thick, a vivid, snowy white.
   "Am I dead?" he mused aloud.
   "Yes," a deep, solemn voice replied.
   He started. He was unable to spot the speaker. Unsure of himself, he remained silent.
   "Are you afraid, Matthew?"
   He weighed his response. "Of death, no." His tone was measured, reverent. "It was time. I'd outlived my usefulness long ago. Luckily, I never became a burden to anyone but myself. I've always been lucky, matter of fact. I even died in my sleep, didn't I? I'm not sure I deserved that."
   "Of what are you afraid, then?"
   "Judgment. I'd come to believe there was nothing beyond the life of the body. It seemed illogical to believe otherwise, and I was probably too determined to live logically."
   "Why are you afraid of judgment? Didn't you exercise it yourself as a mortal?"
   "I guess that's precisely why," he said glumly. "I was often wrong."
   "And now the shoe's on the other foot?"
  He nodded. "I was also taught, long ago, that those who did not believe would be condemned."
   "Even those who lived righteously?"
   Matthew hesitated. "I'm afraid I fail on both counts."
   "You have many sins?"
   "Too many to mention, most of them petty, though, but I'll leave that to you to judge."
   "No," said Matthew, aghast.
   "No, though I did get into some scrapes in my youth. I don't recall having instigated any, though, but I still should've walked away from them."
   "Yes," said Matthew despondently, "and cheating, although I think I lived pretty honorably in these regards. Friends were always poking fun at me for being so straight."
   "No!" He was appalled, then thought a moment. "I did behave despicably with that one girl spring semester, though. I can't, for the life of me, remember her name, which, I suppose, is a sin in itself...."

My thanks to the young moms who purchased books and videos today on Bay Parkway, and to Jack, who donated a bunch of books. He has been smoke-free for three months. Of course, life being life, he is experiencing allergies for the first time and using Claritin, "substituting one poison for another." It's always something.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/13

Friday the 13th proved lucky for the floating bookshop. I took the show to Park Slope, which surveys cite as the most literate neighborhood in Brooklyn. One guy in particular lived up to that assessment, buying a book on string theory, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. I'm in awe of people who understand that stuff. I tried to read Stephen Hawking's book, which is supposed to be easy, and couldn't make sense of it. Another gentleman purchased John Steinbeck's classic, Of Mice and Men. A woman bought three Debbie Macomber novels. And then Ruth happened along, cane in hand, and noticed the sign I was wearing around my neck: Brooklyn Author, Check Out My Books. She has relocated to San Francisco and happened to be home on family business. She bought A Hitch in Twilight. She, too, was a big fan of The Twilight Zone while growing up.
Thanks, folks.
The returns are in - the Obamas paid a lower tax rate than the White House secretary. Anyone surprised? Do as I say, not as I do is the first law of politics.
Last night I watched another of the music tapes I made many years ago, this one in 1992. It began with several black and white clips of Elvis' early appearances on TV shows, which I culled from a special narrated by Priscilla. Those were his best days by far. Anyone who thinks the Vegas years were his best is in severe need of therapy. Also on the tape was Cracker's first appearance on Letterman, doing their breakout hit, What the World Needs Now, an anti-intellectual anthem that has very intelligent lyrics: "What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head." And: "What the world needs now is a new Frank Sinatra so I can get you in bed." House guitarist Sid McGuiness contributes a rip-roaring lead at the end of the song. Here's the clip:
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/12

Unable to find any program to my liking last night at ten, I gave the remote a spin around channels not included amongst my favorites, and came upon Newt Gingrich giving an address at Wesley College in Delaware. He touched on the common conservative economic talking points: drilling, deregulation, lower taxes, elimination of the Capital Gains Tax, all of which I agree with. He also mentioned a way to tackle the college loan problem, which some predict will be worse than the mortgage debacle. He cited College of the Ozarks, in Missouri, which does not charge tuition for full time students. Instead, they must work 15 hours per week on campus, and two 40 hour weeks during school breaks. It dubs itself "Hard Work U." Unfortunately, it has an enrollment of only 1500. It is billed as a Christian Liberal Arts college. Wouldn't it be great if other schools experimented with the same financial approach?

Hearing about this small school, it reminded of another I'd been meaning to research for a long time, although I've known of it since the late '60's, when I attended Western Michigan University. In fact, I helped a kid I coached draft a letter to it. Hillsdale is another Liberal Arts College. It was the first in the United States to prohibit discrimination, writing it into its charter. Study of the Constitution is required of all students. It is currently offering a free online course, which conservative radio host Mike Gallagher is taking. The school is privately funded. It accepts no government moneys! Through the years, it has had several run-ins with the feds. In its 2010 "Resolution Against Federal Interference," it accuses the Obama administration of being "...bent on extending control over higher education and other areas of American life." They will get no argument from me on that front. Unfortunately, as is the case with the College of the Ozarks, enrollment is small, only 1400.
Newt Gingrich usually comes off as the smartest guy in the room. Too bad his past baggage and occasional trips into the bizarro world make him unelectable. He touted his record as Speaker of the House, also giving credit to President Clinton for the budget surplus that occurred during their tenure. I wish I'd been there to approach the microphone with the question that immediately came to my mind: "Wasn't it the internet boom and not politicians that balanced the budget?" It made all elected officials look good, as the current crisis makes them look bad. The job of politicians is to create a climate that will encourage prosperity. Most are clueless in this regard. Newt is an exception.

No luck today on 18th Avenue, as I battled on again, off again sprinkles. Maybe tomorrow.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/11

Whew! Charles Manson has been denied parole for the twelfth time. Had me worried for a while.
I read an interesting tidbit about Masters champion Bubba Watson. He claims to have never taken a golf lesson. At least we have one thing in common. His dream was to play in the NBA. I'd say he found a better one. A basketball championship is shared with players and coaches. The coveted Green Jacket is his alone.

Jack stopped by the floating book shop today. He had a bit of trouble yesterday in Union Square Park. As he was setting up his Occupy Wall Street T-shirt and button concession, he was approached by a Parks Department Officer, who asked to see a vending license. Of course, Jack being Jack, he doesn't have one. He told the guy to take a hike. A while later the guy returned with other Parks Department Officers and two cops. Jack, surrounded by 100 of his OWS brethren, tried to talk his way out of a summons by splitting hairs, saying he doesn't sell the stuff, he merely accepts donations to the cause and thanks people by giving them his wares. His fine is $250 if he pleads no contest and settles by mail. It would be $1000 were he to take his case to court and lose. Instinct tells me he will ignore it. I sensed he wasn't telling me the whole story, as his buddy was fined only $25. If any authority figure tells me to leave a particular place, I go. Technically, I'm supposed to have some sort of permit and use a table to display my wares, so I'm not about to argue myself into trouble, even though printed material, music, art and photography are first amendment privileges and permissible on most sidewalks. I just set up elsewhere. Jack's story may have a happy ending. A guy claiming to be a radio talk show host gave him a business card. The guy claims to be writing a book about the OWS movement. Jack is the type of character who would enliven any show.
It was a frustrating day. Many passersby are taking a look at the Russian books I spread along the ledge of the garden that surrounds the building where I set up shop, but no one is buying. I've had the same ones for about a week now. They seem to have a fantastic element that is not appealing, especially to women. Since alternate side parking regulations are suspended for the Orthodox Holy Thursday and Good Friday, I will take my madness on the road the next two days and, hopefully, change my luck.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/10

There's a lot of good stuff in the news today, the most important a report of a cyber warrior, who has dubbed himself The Raptor, claiming responsibility for going after sites friendly to Jihadists. He took them down for two weeks and left messages taunting them. He has a Twitter account and claims to be retired military, with a son currently serving. The government and military claim ignorance of the attack. Whoever it is, please keep it up.
Even those who do not follow baseball must have heard about new Florida Marlins' manager Ozzie Guillen's incredible gaffe, professing his love for Fidel Castro, completely forgetting what a large part of the team's fan base thinks of the dictator for life, who confiscated the wealth of their ancestors and sent many to prison never to be heard from again. This again proves that intelligence and baseball acumen are not necessarily synonymous. Management has suspended him for five games. Of course, he can circumvent this by declaring himself manager for life.
It's now official, all precincts having reported: The father of the year is England's Bertold Wiesner, who died in the early '70's. The prolific Brit ran a fertility clinic, opened post-war, and was its largest donor. It is believed he is the father of 600. The item led the incomparable Hondo, the NY Post's droll baseball handicapper, to crack that it is believed that Wiesner is the first person to have died of carpal tunnel syndrome.
My schedule was out of kilter today. Since I had to accompany a friend to the doctor, I opened the floating book shop much later than usual. Fortunately, it proved beneficial. I was there late enough for the appearance of legendary local mailman, Mr. Chow, who brightens everyone's day. As usual, he purchased a couple of books on investing. I had competition today, as a man and his son had set up a table not ten yards from my usual spot and were selling buttons and comics. Bruce gave me his card and showed me something very useful to any sidewalk vendor - a list of streets were vending is prohibited, which he'd printed from a website. I also received another donation of books from the 84-year-old veteran. Fortunately, I did not receive a donation from the aforementioned Mr. Wiesner. Ewww!

Thanks, folks.
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Monday, April 9, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/9

I had a nice time in Jersey yesterday, visiting my niece Sandra’s lovely family. Traffic each way was smooth except for a brief spell in Staten Island on the way home. I had the chance to catch up with my great nephew Ronald Jr., and great niece Danielle. Dani, who has made the honor roll and will be entering high school in September, has just begun to think about a career, narrowing it down to actress or lawyer. “Lawyer,” her grandmother said without hesitation. “Actresses are so unhappy.” I’m not sure lawyers are any happier, but the odds of making it as a successful attorney as opposed to a successful artist are certainly a lot higher.
Ronnie has always been on the honor role. He is a bit frustrated by his lack of playing time on the JV baseball team. He has appeared briefly as a relief pitcher in a game in which his team was being blown out. He is facing the cold reality of the difficulty of excelling in sports, the ultimate meritocracy. He is filling the void with guitar. He is also in the process of learning the upright bass, and will be playing in his father’s bluegrass band, which has lost another member. The artist's dream is also subject to cold reality. I face it every day, the inner voice saying: "Quit already."
We enjoyed a typical holiday feast, lamb and ham the main course. I had way too much tomato and mozzarella, which was dressed in spices and immersed in olive oil. That would have been meal enough for me. Of course, we overdid it with dessert: Italian pastries from Brooklyn, apple pie, chocolate marshmallow cake and girl scout cookies. I sampled them all. I will now swear off treats for a week while my cholesterol count recovers. Sandra made up a big pan of leftovers for me. Heat and serve - love it.
The only drawback of the day was leaving just as the drama at the Masters was building. Kudos to Bubba Watson, who the past few years has raised his game from brute force to all-around prowess. And boos to Tiger Woods, whose boorishness continues. He gets harder and harder to care about. He is now just another guy on the tour who will win occasionally. His days of dominance seem history.
The world is upside down - the Mets 3-0, the Skanks 0-3. When will cold reality strike?
For the third consecutive Monday a crazy wind played havoc with the floating book shop. I had to
set up leeward of the bus shelter on Avenue Z to have a chance to do business. Other than my usual well-wishers, people were too smart to stop by.
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/7

Among Joanne's vast book donation to me were several by Joanne Fluke, who, like Diane Mott Davidson, specializes in culinary mysteries. Her heroine, Hannah Swenson, runs a cookie shop in a small Minnesota town, and solves murders on the side. It's silly, of course, but it's meant to be fun, not high art. I just finished the twelfth in the series, The Apple Turnover Murder (2010). She has written 15, as well as 30 other books. This one tried my patience. It concentrated much more on domestic issues and recipes than mystery. It was too light for my taste. She must have a solid fan base, given the amount of books she has written. I was unable to find any sales figures, so I assume she doesn't crack the best sellers list frequently. The characters consumed a lot of coffee and sweets. There was also a fondness for cats and dogs. The prose and dialogue were so-so. Of the 290 pages, I'd guess 50 were dedicated to recipes. That fact keeps me from ranking it as low as Stuart Woods' Worst Fears Realized. On a scale of five, I rate The Apple Turnover Murder one-and-half. Tami Hoag's A Thin, Dark Line remains the best mystery I've sampled. Joy Fielding and Daniel Silva are the smoothest writers.
I watched about another hour of the 25th Anniversary Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Concert. Metallica served as the house band for an extended set, doing two of their own songs, as well as hosting Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Davies of the Kinks, and Lou Reed, who the crowd regaled with: "Louuuuuu!" My buddy Bags remarked, in the phrase made famous by long-time Mets announcer the late Bob Murphy: "They're not booing...." The highlight of this particular hour was U2 doing the Stones' Gimme Shelter, on which they were accompanied by Mick Jagger and Fergie. I don't know anything about Fergie's music, but I thought she stole the show this time.  "Rape - murder - it's just a shot away." Here's the clip:
I set up shop outside the Chase Bank on Bay Parkway and had great luck. Jack, an employee, gave me a bag full of thrillers, several of which I'd sold him, and bought four I had on display, refusing to take them as a fair exchange. And Sue, a local realtor and cousin of my old work buddy Joe Piss (frequent bathroom breaks), purchased a copy of Killing. Thanks, folks.
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/6

Rest in peace Chief Jay Strongbow, WWF fan favorite from the '60's through the 80's. Of course, being a pro wrestler, his age is a mystery. Obits list it as anywhere from 79-83. By the way, if you don't already know, he wasn't really an Indian. He was a goombah out of Jersey, real name Joe Scarpa. And contrary to popular belief, he's not related to actor Frank DeKova, who frequently played a redskin in films and on TV, most notably as the Chief of the Heckowee on the sitcom F Troop. Of course, you know how the tribe got its name. After traveling hundreds of miles, the Medicine Man looked out over the plain and said: "Where the Heckowee?" Here are those icons, Jay second.

Shocking news out of college basketball - no, not that a player has actually graduated. Isiah Thomas has been fired after three seasons as head coach at Florida International. This despite a record of 26-65. Knicks fans are stunned.
My experiment with the cover of Killing, which features the street sign of 18th Av./Cristoforo Columbo Blvd., had its first test today, and I was disappointed with the result. I set up shop outside Garibaldi Park and was virtually ignored. Fortunately, Loretta, whose family has been in Brooklyn since the 1890's, saved the day, purchasing a copy. She is half Sicilian, half Neapolitan. Her ancestors landed at Ellis Island. My mom and dad emigrated at mid century. By then, the famous landing spot had long closed. Grazie asai, Loretta, and thanks to the folks at for the $20 deposit into my paypal account, which is over a hundred again. That should be enough to buy 15 copies when I need them. 17 left.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/5

It's been another bad week for the green movement. A123 Systems, makers of batteries, has filed for bankruptcy, taking 279 billion taxpayer dollars with it. I guess it's time to fire up the government printing press once again. Hey, it's only money. And the bad news wasn't restricted to the U.S.. A fourth solar energy manufacturer has gone belly up in Germany. Drilll and frack, frack and drill - they are the only way to energy independence at present. And they would create thousands of jobs.
The floating book shop had competition today. I gazed across the street and saw Svetlana/Vivian setting up her wares in front of our apartment complex. She hawks a liquid fat burner, five bucks a can. She claims to have lost 30 pounds using it, although I don't recall her having ever been overweight. The other day she took the stand to the Sheepshead Bay train station, and sold 40. Unfortunately, today she was chased from the grounds by management, which prohibits soliciting. I'm so fortunate that Roberto, the super of the building where I set up, is in my corner. Vivian, the name she adopted for her business persona, moved to the little island between Ave Z and the service road leading to East 13th, a nice sunny spot directly across the street from me. I approached after I'd closed up shop. She asked for advice. I told her to move to the other side of the street, where significantly more people passed. She has what seems a baby bump. It's not likely a belly, given the access she has to the fat burner. I've seen her with a man who seems of Indian origin. Her mom is embarrassed that she has taken her business to the street. It doesn't surprise me. I once spotted my godmother crossing the street before she reached me and sensed she was embarrassed for me. I've sensed the same about other passersby. Some people put a lot of stock in appearances. Heck, I've questioned my sanity a thousand times since I first brought my books to the sidewalk. I recall my mom's ironic comment whenever someone, including me, did something untoward in public: Bella figura. Translation: you're making an ass of yourself. Well, I refuse to sit around and wait for readers to discover my books on the web. One day in Park Slope, Susan, a guitar teacher, stopped and mentioned that Wayne Dyer, the wildly successful self-help guru, started out selling his books from the trunk of a car. I don't hope to be as successful as that, but I do want people to read my work, and I don't see any other way to do it at present, so I'll just have to deal with the feeling of having egg on my face.
I thank the people who bought books on what was a slow business day.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/4

It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud anywhere, the temperature mild, negating the effects of the breeze. Political Man stopped by the floating bookshop, telling me about his trip to the dentist. It wasn't long before he went into full campaign mode, telling each person passing: "Four more years, tax the rich, keep women's rights." He attracted a Russian gentleman, and they fell into a lengthy discussion which, inevitably, turned to PM's favorite subject, marijuana. PM claims legalization will lead to four billion dollars of tax revenue and solve all government shortfalls. If only. The Russian gentleman, who has never taken an illegal drug, was baffled and asked about the effects. Soon a crabby elderly woman, who has frequently told me of her hatred of Russians, joined the fray. I was getting it from three sides. Help! I wanted to shout. All I wanted to do was sell some books, hopefully one or more of mine, and there I was in the middle of a squall. I had to step away and wait until it had subsided. Oy vay!
Herbie visited and bought J S Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, whose film adaption flopped, despite Oscar nominations. Several critics denounced it as exploitation of 9/11. 9/11 is another theme I avoid, along with slavery and the Holocaust. I walked past Ground Zero every work day for seven years, smelled the smoldering fire while working the trading floor of the Commodity Exchange for many months after the attack. I am still pissed off about it and wish every terrorist dead.
I had two unusual sales today. A large black man who usually opts for spiritual works chose Karen Harper's Dark Angel, a thriller, and an elderly female fan of fantasy and sci-fi picked a Ruth Rendell mystery whose title escapes me. And a young woman, a local home attendant with a wonderful smile, made a big score, landing Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and New Moon, which she'd had to pass on yesterday because of a lack of funds.
Susan, one of my best customers, has returned from her winter in Thailand, where her sons have settled. I wondered if she too had chosen to settle there, near her grandkids. She said she is considering it but still feels Brooklyn is home. She wasted no time, buying a collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood, Wilderness Tips. I promised to make a list of all the obscure novels I have on hand. When her husband goes book shopping for her, he selects "something that nobody else would read."
Here is my one baseball prediction for the coming season: the Yankees will make the playoffs. Oh, how I hope I'm wrong!
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Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/4

It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud anywhere, the temperature mild, negating the effects of the breeze. Political Man stopped by the floating bookshop, telling me about his trip to the dentist. It wasn't long before he went into full campaign mode, telling each person passing: "Four more years, tax the rich, keep women's rights." He attracted a Russian gentleman, and they fell into a lengthy discussion which, inevitably, turned to PM's favorite subject, marijuana. PM claims legalization will lead to four billion dollars of tax revenue and solve all government shortfalls. If only. The Russian gentleman, who has never taken an illegal drug, was baffled and asked about the effects. Soon a crabby elderly woman, who has frequently told me of her hatred of Russians, joined the fray. I was getting it from three sides. Help! I wanted to shout. All I wanted to do was sell some books, hopefully one or more of mine, and there I was in the middle of a squall. I had to step away and wait until it had subsided. Oy vay!
Herbie visited and bought J S Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, whose film adaption flopped, despite Oscar nominations. Several critics denounced it as exploitation of 9/11. 9/11 is another theme I avoid, along with slavery and the Holocaust. I walked past Ground Zero every work day for seven years, smelled the smoldering fire while working the trading floor of the Commodity Exchange for many months after the attack. I am still pissed off about it and wish every terrorist dead.
I had two unusual sales today. A large black man who usually opts for spiritual works chose Karen Harper's Dark Angel, a thriller, and an elderly female fan of fantasy and sci-fi picked a Ruth Rendell mystery whose title escapes me. And a young woman, a local home attendant with a wonderful smile, made a big score, landing Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and New Moon, which she'd had to pass on yesterday because of a lack of funds.
Susan, one of my best customers, has returned from her winter in Thailand, where her sons have settled. I wondered if she too had chosen to settle there, near her grandkids. She said she is considering it but still feels Brooklyn is home. She wasted no time, buying a collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood, Wilderness Tips. I promised to make a list of all the obscure novels I have on hand. When her husband goes book shopping for her, he selects "something that nobody else would read."
Here is my one baseball prediction for the coming season: the Yankees will make the playoffs. Oh, how I hope I'm wrong!
Read Vic's stories, free:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/3

Last night the NYC PBS station ran back to back documentaries on literary marvels. The first was dedicated to Margaret Mitchell, author of the phenomenon Gone with the Wind (1936). Born in 1900, she was unconventional, the antithesis of the southern belle. She spent one year in college, which was notable only because she protested the presence of a black woman in one of her classes. GWTW would later be criticized for its portrayal of slaves and the KKK. Mitchell evolved later in life, donating money secretly to Morehouse College specifically to train black doctors. She also contributed to Atlanta's first hospital for blacks, also on the QT, wary of backlash.
I've never read GWTW. I've suffered at least two viewings of the film, considered by many a classic, winner of many Oscars. It bored me. Since I know the storyline and don't anticipate any of the surprises that make literature fun, I'm reluctant to give the novel a shot. Tragically, Mitchell died at 48, hit by a car while crossing the street with her husband, who was unharmed.
The second documentary also focused on a southern woman, Harper Lee, author of the ground-breaking To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published at the height of the civil rights movement, 1960. It is set in a small Alabama town similar to the one in which she was raised. I haven't read this one, either, and I've seen only parts of the film, which won Gregory Peck the Oscar for Best Actor. Horton Foote's screenplay was also honored. The work falls into a category, especially now, 50 years later, I find difficult to get excited about. Like Holocaust literature and films, it seems a stacked deck, right and wrong clearly delineated. I think gray is the most interesting area in literature and film. Reasonable people are aware of racism and don't need to be convinced of its evil. Bigots will not be swayed. Still, legions swear and are moved profoundly by it. Lee touched a chord only a fortunate few have. She had an interesting neighbor, Truman Capote, who lived a significant part of his youth with his aunt in the house next door to Lee's. They eventually had a falling out, as Capote was envious of the success of MB, which won a Pulitzer, while In Cold Blood (1966), which also still resonates, did not. Lee actually accompanied Capote to the scene of the murders and helped with his research.
Curiously, Lee and Mitchell did not publish another novel, and both were childless. According to Wiki, their books have sold at least 30 million copies each. The two best selling novels of all time are believed to be Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Antoine de Saint-Exupary's The Little Prince (1943). Each has more than 200 million in sales.
I thank the kind folks who patronized and donated to the floating book shop today, especially Jon, who bought Killing. His novel will be out soon. I look forward to reading it.
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/2

I'm frequently fascinated by the irony that occurs in life. I, a pro-capitalism conservative, edited my friend Bob Rubenstein's The White Bridge, which is in large part an anti-capitalism screed. Now Bob, an ultra-liberal, has written a glowing review of Killing, a novel at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here it is:
I knew Dante the first moment he hugged his son but was skittish about doing it, as men often are. His son, Junior is going off to the Gulf War, and the father is choking on the inside cause he knows about combat. He knows about Nam. We are not told about the killings there. You see, that begins the beauty of Vic Fortezza's novel. Amid all the words, it is Dante's silence that holds us with a fist of menace. We know from the beginning, this man is wound too tight. He is coiled and G-d Forbid Junior does not come back home.
Yes, I know Dante. He was from the other side of the street where I grew up to be safe. I mean, being white was a blessing in our Brooklyn neighborhood. It was always harder to be Black. Dante's son knew the gang that attacked and murdered Yusef Hawkins. We expected and got only belts in the mouth, a whack in the gut, a kick in the ass. But they let us live if we obeyed the law of the streets, the territories staked out between the bowling alleys and the pizza joints.
Killing is Saturday Night Fever on steroids.
By that I mean, it has left me undone. The novel brings back a divisive time and guilt I never thought I owned. You see, I was on the other side of the street, deferred, crazy; seeing spirits, hearing voices during the hearing test. "Hell no, we won't go."
But you know, there were Dantes.Though he says stuff that is repugnant to me, he has a case. He is from the other side and hates our protest as much as we hated the war. It was a soldier's prerogative.
Tonight, I recalled a real soldier who came home from the war, as silent as Dante. He was my childhood friend. Wally came to visit me during a protest rally in Brooklyn. He said nothing, and I said nothing to him. I did not know where or what he had done in Nam. He wasn't telling and I wasn't asking. It was the last time we spoke until tonight.
As Dante tears at my heartstrings, though, I softened my position and felt profound guilt I had not known I carried from that last conversation with my childhood friend. The difference gave him the right to wear Vietnam Veteran caps and does not allow us to wear Vietnam protestor caps. It gives those like him who served the right to have fifty thousand names on the Washington wall. Not one protestor, I believe, is so honored,except in a little place likewise revered:Kent State. There was, you know, a massacre there, but the soldiers finally have the field and the final word.
Still, it is so shocking to hear them mouth their words of derision at us, but the beauty of Vic Fortezza is to make the mundane speak to us in a common voice of humanity.Husbands and wives breathe with eternal, even heroic life.
This is more than a good read. The dialogue is too real, shocking, to be a play. Look, I am not no mammaluke, no sfacheem. I don't know why this extraordinary novel has taken so long to see the light of day. But I am convinced it is so real in its dialogue that resonates such truths as to make Killing a visceral explosion.
Tonight I spoke to my childhood friend, Wally W., whom I did not talk to for fifty years and I said, "I'm sorry," for not understanding his right to be silent. Vic Fortezza has given voice to an era of silence, cowardice and heroism. His amazing gifts bring us a common humanity; the shared affective suffering of our mixed-up generation.
I thank Herbie and Mr. Almost, who braved the stiff Northeast wind to buy books today.
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/1

Our postman arrives after 4 PM. I frequently forget about it and don't pick up my mail until the next morning. Logging off the computer at 7:30 last night, I suddenly remembered and went to the lobby hoping there would be a mail order for Killing in the box. There was even better news - a letter from a TV producer interested in purchasing A Hitch in Twilight and any other stories I might have in that vein. The compensation offered was staggering. I've been writing since 1975. All those years have finally paid off. I have a meeting scheduled in midtown Manhattan tomorrow afternoon. The floating book shop's customers will have to do without me for a day. I haven't told any family members yet for fear the deal will fall through. I have no idea what to say. I'm so grateful I don't dare make any demands, even if drastic changes are proposed for the stories. Unlike my novels, which I would not want changed, I intended the stories in Hitch as sheer entertainment, diabolical fun. Wish me luck.
April Fools! Maybe some day.

I did have good luck today, though, selling a copy of Killing to an Italian-American woman. She laughed when I bookmarked the Glossary of Brooklyn Sicilian terms at the back of the book. "I probably won't need it," she said. Thank you, Maryann, and thanks also to my buddy Bob, who purchased Primal Fear (1996) on VHS. He can't stop talking about the last tape I sold him: David Lynch's bizarre classic Blue Velvet (1986).
Last night my lovely niece Tanya emailed me. I'd recently sent her a copy of Killing through the mail. The package arrived in Denver in a plastic bag and had a note of apology attached. It had been opened and the book had been replaced with a DVD about Korean orphans. Maybe Newman has transferred to our local post office. I've mailed out a lot of books the past few years, and this is the first time anything bad has happened. I send them Media Mail, which is the least expensive option. It has worked like a charm. I'll chalk the incident up as the cost of doing business, unless the parcel I sent to Joey Fork Tongue a few days ago suffers the same fate.
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