Sunday, September 14, 2008

argh, books.

I didn't get to see much of the Brooklyn Book Festival because it was just so hot, but I got to see Pete Hamill and borough president Marty Markowitz shoot the shit when Jimmy Breslin was late for the discussion. And honestly, I could listen to Pete Hamill tell the most mundane stories about anything. Always a punchline, always a meaning. Just every observation he makes. Like for instance, we were all gathered in the oldest courthouse in Brooklyn, in this grand old courtroom with green curtains and dark wood paneling with ornate carvings, and he just looked around and said, "I love this room. You can just smell the felonies coming out of the walls."

And Markowitz, who used to be a senator, said straight out while on the topic of politics that politicians are corrupt. He went on a mini-rant (in his Brooklyn accent) about how nothing in government ever gets done right because of the corruption that he has seen firsthand. And I liked that. I've always thought he was a regular guy who really wanted to work for the people, kind of like Fiorello LaGuardia.

Finally when Jimmy Breslin came, people were able to toss out questions about current events and such. Breslin almost kind of turned into a ranty, rambly, cranky old white man, but Hamill managed to pull him back on topic a number of times, and did a good job of being diplomatic when opinions clashed. Breslin had his funny moments, too.

Hamill: What are your thoughts on creationism?
Breslin: I would speak at length about it if I knew what it was.

Afterwards, after everone poured back outside into the heat and festivities, there was an author's table by the side of the courthouse steps, sitting behind their folded cardstock signs with their names on them. I sat down on the steps and waited a while for Mr. Hamill to show up, and then waited some more as people lined up to have their books signed by him. In the meantime, I saw his wife, Fukiko, who is also a journalist. It was a bit sweet, actually, as I suddenly saw this Asian woman come up behind him and touch his shoulders and the back of his head in a familiar way, and then I thought, oh, that's his wife! She left to go back inside the courthouse.

Eventually I went up when the line got shorter, and he was having conversations with fans and such, which was nice of him. And then it was my turn and I shook his hand, said hello. I didn't have anything for him to autograph, and so he took his cardstock sign and flipped it open and signed it for me! Plus I reminded him that we'd met last year at this festival -- and he said he remembered, turned around toward the street and pointed, saying we'd been just over there. So I went on just thanking him profusely for the advice and the inspiration and that I take it to heart every time I try to write, and he thanked me for saying so and aw, he's just great.

So, that was that, and then I spent about $35 on books, goddammit. But how do you resist when books like THESE were only 5 bucks each??? Pulp written by women! I bought "Women's Barracks" (seriously, authentic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction -- what is there to not like about that?), "The G-String Murders" by Gypsy Rose Lee, and "In a Lonely Place," on which the Bogart movie was based. Then I bought "Manhattan Noir 2," and then an old and yellowed book from 1947 called "Sins of New York," a compilation of true crime essays and articles from back in da day. So much stuff to read. Gah.

As I wandered amongst the tables, I came across an indie publisher that basically puts out bandom novels. Seriously! Stories with music and bands as the central driving force. Life around it, life within it, life inspired by it. There were novels about a '60s girl-group, a '70s punk band, a blues musician on the road, all that stuff. I think it's awesome.

And being around all those independent publishers and authors...damn, it made me want to write and work to get myself published like I have always dreamed about but argh. I have no excuses. None at all. Except for the crippling notion that my work is crap and unpublish-able. Argh, you see.

But anyway, a enjoyable day all in all. I love this festival!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"The flags on the Brooklyn Bridge are flying half-staff today."

I've always wanted to use that as the first line of something great. Someday the rest will come to me, but for the longest time, it's stood alone in my mind, an observation that has prompted me to wonder, So, which important person passed away? Of course, this morning I didn't need to wonder, and I expected to see the flags at half-staff when the subway went over the Manhattan Bridge. And of course, the skyline itself is the everyday reminder of the city's loss.

I don't need video clips. Least of all I don't need politicians to tell me about it.

The emptiness is still there and I can see it and I will always feel it.