For better or worse, this is my BLOG, and I'm going to title it: A View of the Troubled Publishing Industry and Possibly the Troubled World as Seen Through the Eyes of a Particularly Jaded (and quite possibly troubled) Writer.... How's that for a title?
March 17, 2014
It was August of 1956 when my older sister and her husband sold their house on Ford Street, and bought a new home out in Massapequa on Long Island. Displaced by that sale, my mother, sister, baby brother and I had to leave our beloved Brooklyn and move thirty some-odd miles (it might as well have been one hundred and thirty) away to the little town of Lindenhurst also on Long Island. At least the new place had two bedrooms. I was twelve years old then, and it didn't take long to realize that the move was definitely going to be a much different chapter in my life. For starters, no kids out there gave a fiddler's damn about the Brooklyn Dodgers specifically, or the sport of baseball in general for that matter. Most of the kids that I fell in with were into beaches, boating, and water skiing (now that really doesn't sound so bad, right?) but not one of them so much as owned a baseball glove. I don't think I ever played another game of catch until I was married and had kids of my own. Bummer man! That fall I entered the seventh grade at Lindenhurst Junior High. Kids there were quite different from the sixth graders I had left behind at good old P.S. 52; they seemed tougher and more mature. Many smoked, some of the girls were already into makeup, and I found myself somewhat intimidated by the whole experience. I wished I could go back to Brooklyn.
February 17, 2014
On the opposite side of Ford Street and several doors down lived the Weilgus family. Mr. and Mrs. and their two sons, Stanley and Lenny. Stanley was my best friend as a pre-teen and, almost sixty years later, we remain friends still. He liked what I liked: stickball. And, like me, was hopelessly hooked on the fortunes or, more commonly, the misfortunes, of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I spent lots of time at the Weilgus home, where I was always warmly welcomed. Mostly we played stickball. We had drawn a semi-permanent rectangular, strike-zone box on the north-side outer wall of their house, which is what we pitched to. We lost many a "Spaldeen" when one of us would smack a homerun that would land on the adjacent Belt Parkway, only to be smacked again and again by eastbound Hudsons and Studebakers, and knocked clear to Canarsie. But there was way more to my friendship with Stanley and Lenny than stickball. Sometimes on sticky summer evenings, their parents would decide to take a cooling ride out to the Rockaways, and I was often invited to come along. Stanley, Lenny and I would hop into the backseat of the family's '55 Plymouth, and off we'd go. Somewhere along the way, a stop would be made at a Carvel stand, and we three would be rewarded with ice-cream cones (my favorite was chocolate). Though I was a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic, who at one point in my childhood was strongly considering the priesthood (that is until I discovered girls and beer...I'm not certain in what order), I was sometimes invited to attend Seder, a ritual feast that begins Passover. During those years when I considered myself a surrogate son of Mr. and Mrs. Weilgus, and surrogate brother to Stan and Lenny, I learned much about their Jewish faith. I remember well the candle lighting, dreidels, and fried food at Hanukah. I know the importance of Yom Kippur, the Jews Day of Atonement, and their joyous holiday of Purim. Yes, as a young Christian kid, I was there. Hell, I even had my own yarmulke. Only in Brooklyn!
February 9, 2014
Back in the late 40s through the mid 50s, Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York, could hardly be considered upscale. For the most part it was working class. Though not an area of wealth or status, it was where I spent my "formative" years, and where I never knew that I was poor. My mother, sister, baby brother and I all lived in a tiny one-bedroom basement apartment of a typical attached Brooklyn house owned by my older sister and her husband who lived upstairs. (Separated from my mother, my father lived elsewhere...long story). It was a place and time that I look back upon fondly. It was where I attended public school, through grade six, and where I made my earliest acquaintanceships and earliest friendships. And, of course, Brooklyn was home to the beloved Dodgers, the Bums, that sanctified group who dwelt in the run-down cathedral known as Ebbets Field. The Dodgers were the social glue that bound together every Brooklynite, regardless of class, religion, or ethnicity. We lived and died with them. The Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn (not unlike virtually every section of Brooklyn) was a true melting pot, and therefore, my earliest acquaintances and friends were drawn from the neighboring Polish, Italian, Jewish, blah-blah-blah, families--you get the idea. For example, because of my friendship with Pasquale (Patsy) Leuci who lived only a few doors down on Ford Street, I came to witness backyard-grown grapes squashed into a pulpy liquid under the bare feet of his older sisters. The process took place periodically (annually?) in a huge wooden vat that occupied the center of their one-car detached garage; clearly, there were priorities. Patsy's father, Mr. Leuci, (I never knew his first name) was an old-timey ice man. In fact, he may have been the very last of the breed--by then most homes had refrigerators and freezers, and most bars and restaurants had their own ice makers. Somehow though, after all these years, I can still envision his ancient yellow truck with the blue lettering, multiple ice chutes and hanging tongs, rounding the corner at Ford Street, returning home after a long and wearying day making the rounds delivering cumbersome blocks of frozen water. As I recall, Mr. Leuci spoke no (or little) English, and on Sundays (as Mrs. Leuci and several of their daughters--and daughters-in-law--tended the magnum pot of gravy bubbling away on the stovetop), Mr. Leuci would laze away the afternoon on a rickety kitchen chair plucking Italian songs on his mandolin and sipping joyously on his potent homemade "guinea red" from an unpretentious and un-stemmed water glass. Patsy's older brothers were always busy around the house, or working on their cars. I remember an old Chevy coupe that was one brother's pride and joy. I helped him wash and dry it one day. I was honored. The Leuci's were a classic example of the tightknit extended family, and their little house on Ford Street was the center of their universe. They didn't know that they were poor either.
January 13, 2014
But, what is the path to becoming a writer, a novelist? The answer in most cases is, simply, life. Why does one struggle to tell compelling (hopefully) stories of novel length and thereby subject him or herself to this solitary and often lonely endeavor? Again, the answer is... life. But, everyone's life and experiences--and their individual perceptions of life and experience--is different. Life is seen through different eyes and processed through different brains. So, the answers to how and why some people become novelists--as opposed to becoming firefighters, jugglers, or CPAs--are many and varied, and every writer has his own point of view and his own tales to tell. In that regard, I can speak only to my story--but not today. So, should you have any interest at all in my journey through life--and I cannot imagine why--how it progressed, and why I eventually became a novel writer, I will begin to tell that story, step-by-step, in upcoming posts. Do stay tuned....