Sunday, October 21, 2018

378. How to Get Rid of Stuff


Hello to all those first discovering this blog, which is about anything and everything New York.  To subscribe and get notices of the new posts and other news, use the link on the right.  For my books, including cover illustrations, summaries, and reviews, go down to the BROWDERBOOKS section following the post.  And feedback is welcome; feel free to make comments below, or to contact me by e-mail: cliffbrowder@verizon.net.


                 How to Get Rid of Stuff


ForSince my partner Bob’s death two months ago, as his executor I’ve had the problem of getting rid of huge amounts of stuff that I don’t want – stuff that clutters up my living room and reminds me of his slow decline from  Parkinson’s.  Once cozy and welcoming, for years the living room had been a dying room, part hospital room and part medical supplies warehouse.  I want to liberate it, to make it livable again.  The hospital bed was gone, reclaimed by the supplier, but a wheelchair and walker remained, and a whole row of big cartons crammed with unused medical supplies.  What to do?  All kinds of people want to help.  For instance:

·      The head of acquisitions at Delgatto, the country’s leading jewelry buyer from the public, offers sincerest condolences for the passing of Robert E. Lagerstrom, wishes me peace during this difficult time,  offers a free evaluation of jewelry, diamonds, and watches, and includes an elegant brochure.
·      Sotheby’s is sorry for my loss, and a senior global real estate advisor associated with them offers to sell the estate with patience, compassion, and trust.
·      A licensed associate real estate broker with The Corcoran Group knows that families can be overwhelmed by the probate process and offers to help.
·      The principal broker of the Stephen P. Wald Real Estate Associates wants to help remove personal property and furniture and prepare my properties for sale.
·      The Ragazzi Gallery offers to appraise my property for estate liquidation.
·      Connors & Sullivan, attorneys at law, want to preserve my assets and protect my family.

         While only the name of Sotheby’s is known to me, I am touched by the concern of these strangers, so eager to help, but to date I have no need of their services.  This will especially disappoint Mr. Connors of the last-named firm, who in a full-face photo, fingers clasped, flashes a fiendish smile, as if gloating over the fees for services about to flow his way.  (No offense intended to Mr. Connors; I’m sure he knows his stuff.)

         But for me, these dear folks aren’t the answer.  Thanks to a recommendation from the lawyer who did my will, I am already getting help, and in the process have learned of an occupation hitherto unknown to me.  Have you ever heard of a senior move manager?  Neither had I, until recently.  And what does such a manager offer?  All kinds of services:

·      An overall plan for clearing things out.
·      Organizing and sorting possessions, and help in deciding what to give away, sell, or discard.
·      Arranging to move anything you want to keep.
·      Arranging for sale, donation, or disposal of items to be discarded.
·      Completely emptying your apartment.
·      Hiring a contractor and overseeing painting and other work to make your home ready for sale.

         Of all these services, I only needed arranging items for sale, donation, or disposal.  And what were those items?  First, that long row of cartons at one end of the living room, containing diapers, pads, examination gloves, wash cloths, and a heap of male external catheters – in other words, condoms – the uses of all of which, when not obvious, I prefer not to explain.  Plus the wheelchair with one broken brake.  Plus the collapsible walker.  Plus another carton containing a jumble of sterile pads and dressings, bottles of saline solution (a potent disinfectant), and other items whose use I could not imagine.  Plus, in a big closet in the bedroom, tons of clothing, none of which fitted me or suited my fussy tastes.
         To remove all this stuff and have other items appraised, I had to sign a contract and agree to pay a substantial fee.  That done, the outfit’s head and an assistant came, looked over the clothes, and took photos of leftover medical supplies, Bob’s Coney Island files, and his jewelry.  Then, about a week later, they gave me the immediate results of their investigation:

·      Housing Works on West 10th Street, but a short distance from my building, would take the clothes, two trips by taxi anticipated.
·      The AFYA Foundation, which has a drop-off site on East 17th Street, will take the medical supplies, including the wheelchair and walker.  They supply such stuff to people in need all over the world.  Two trips by taxi anticipated.
·      A dealer in the Diamond District will look at the jewelry, but I must accompany them there.
·      Alas, Bob’s Coney Island memorabilia don’t interest any of their dealers, nor do the three small Wedgwood items that I had discovered and informed them of by e-mail.

         I opted not to go with them to the jewelry dealer, but, being greedy for space, anticipated with joy the removal of the medical supplies and clothing, which would require only one visit by them.  It was not the memory of Bob that I was escaping, but the memory of Parkinson’s, that slow, insidious affliction.  So we scheduled the visit.

         Last Tuesday she came, the same young assistant who had come before.  (I’ll call her Verna, though that’s not her real name.)  Brimming with energy, Verna immediately started consolidating the medical supplies in cartons, emptying some cartons by adding their contents to another.  Since it was clear that I could help best by getting out of the way, I repaired to the bedroom, where I had piled Bob’s clothing in heaps on the bed, and started removing the hangars. 
         A series of weird shrieks then came in rapid succession from the living room, too rhythmic and repetitious to make me suspect foul play.    Curious, I finally looked in.  Verna was yanking off stretches of tape from a dispenser and taping the cartons shut.  Before my eyes the long row of cartons was shrinking down to half as many.  I could at last imagine that whole end of the living room purged of these leftover supplies, many of them grim reminders of Bob’s long decline and my feeble attempts to help.  Down the four flights Verna went with the cartons, following which she returned, collapsed the wheelchair to half its size, and took it down as well.  I had thought that just getting the wheelchair down would be an epic struggle, an ordeal, but she toted it down in no time.  Promising to return in an hour, she then summoned Uber and whisked everything away to the drop-off site.  Good-bye Parkinson’s, good-bye the stomach-twisting knots of hope and grief. 

         I swept up after her, put the emptied cartons together to create a surface where surplus bedding could be placed, stacked the bedding there, and gloried in the liberation of the living room, and in my own liberation as well.  Having long been a hospital room and medical supply warehouse, the room was now beginning to look again like a living room.

         An hour later Verna was back, having delivered the stuff with only one trip.  It was almost noon, and I was about to have lunch. 
         “Don’t you get a lunch break?” I asked.
         “No,” she said.  “I just snack along the way.”
         So while I started lunch, this young dynamo began inventorying the clothes I had laid out on the bed in the bedroom.
         By now I was getting curious about this young woman’s profession.  “What is the name for your occupation?” I asked.
         “Senior move manager,” she replied, while sorting out the clothes.
         “Have you been at it very long?”
         “About two and a half years.”
         “And how did you ever get such a job?”
         “Katie, my boss, put an ad in an artists’ website.  She figured that the odd hours would appeal to artists.  And they do.”
         “You’re an artist?”
         “Yes I am.”
         “What kind of art do you do?”
         “Right now, mostly collages.”
         I gave her my card, telling her that I might mention her in a post for my blog.  Then, at my request, Verna agreed to add my name to her mailing list, so I would learn of any exhibition she was in.  Her strange profession struck me as very New York, since young artists, actors, and dancers have always flocked here to launch their careers, and for a little income usually work as waiters in restaurants.  An alternative, I now learned, is a job as a senior move manager.  Her colleagues include several young artists and dancers, likewise attracted by the odd hours, as opposed to a standard 9 to 5 job.
         “By the way,” she said, “have you checked the pockets of the clothes?”
         “No,” I confessed, wary of dirty handkerchiefs and who knows what else.
         She proceeded to do so, and soon gave me a small bag heavy with coins, since Bob never bothered to make change.  And so, having just gotten rid of a stash of change I had found in his bureau drawer, I was loaded down with more.  It will take me weeks to get rid of it, a little here and a little there.

         Soon this marvel left, having loaded all the clothes into three big plastic bags.  Instead of summoning Uber again, she said she’d probably just tote the stuff to Housing Works on foot – further proof of her remarkable energy.  And she was knowledgeable as well: inventories of the medical supplies and clothing donations would be mailed me, so I could take their value off my taxable income – an advantage that I hadn’t even thought of, being focused on getting the stuff out of the apartment.  I was almost sorry to see her go.

         Two days later the inventories came by mail.  The medical supplies highlights:

·      For the wheelchair with one faulty brake: a mere $25.
·      For the walker: $15.
·      For 1 pair of cushioned foot booties (I hadn’t even known the name for them!): $10.
·      9 boxes of synthetic examination gloves, 7 unopened and 2 opened: a surprising $80.
·      For a box of Freedom Coloplast male catheters (those things again!) totaling about 100 in number, an amazing $100.

Good riddance to all.  The fair market value for these and other items: $345.

         And the fair market value for my clothing donations to Housing Works?  Here are some items:

·      2 sweaters: $10.
·      3 neckties (carefully packaged by me): $9.
·      1 earmuffs (tossed in by me, not sure they counted as clothing): $3, or $1.50 per ear.
·      1 wool overcoat (too big for me): $25.
·      4 button-down shirts (I don’t like button-downs): $40.
·      8 coats/jackets: $80.

Total value: $199.

         $345 + $199 = $544.  The Housing Works statement assured me that my donations would give a second chance to New Yorkers in need, and the AFYA Foundation promised to donate the medical supplies to people in need all over the world.  Reflecting on this, I got a do-gooder’s warm, fuzzy feeling inside and basked in the glow of my generosity.  Plus $544 in income tax deductions!  IRS, this year I dread thee not.

         So if you have tons of stuff to get rid of, consider senior move managers.  God bless them.  Like estate liquidators, crematorium managers, and forensic pathologists (see posts #300 and #301), they perform a useful and necessary task.  It cost me only $326.58, and was worth every penny of it.  My living room is mine again at last.


Coming soon:
  The Sensual: What Is It?


                   BROWDERBOOKS

All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018, and at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2018.




Reviews

"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

"To read No Place for Normal: New York is to enter into Cliff Browder’s rich and engaging sixty years of adult life in New York. Yes, he delves back before his time – from the city’s origins to the 19th Century that Ms. Trollope and Mr. Dickens encounter to robber barons and slums that marked highs and lows of the earlier Twentieth Century. But Browder has lived such an engaged and curious life that he can’t help but cross paths with every layer and period of society. There is something Whitmanesque in his outlook."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Michael P. Hartnett.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.






Reviews

"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 


New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  What price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?

Reviews

"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, but women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)





Reviews

"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


5.  Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies (Black Rose Writing, 2018).  A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.



Fascinating NYers eimage.jpg


Reviews

"Fascinating New Yorkers by Clifford Browder was like sitting down with a dear friend and catching up on the latest gossip and stories. Written with a flair to keep the reader turning the pages, I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about the subjects of each New Yorker. I love NYC and this book just added to the list of reasons why, a must read for those who love NYC and the people who have lived there." Five-star NetGalley review by Patty Ramirez, librarian.

"Unputdownable."  Five-star review by Dipali Sen, retired librarian.

"I felt like I was gossiping with a friend when reading this, as the author wrote about New Yorkers who are unique in one way or another. I am hoping for another book featuring more New Yorkers, as I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting!" Five-star NetGalley review by Cristie Underwood. 


©   2018   Clifford Browder   




Sunday, October 14, 2018

377. Dirty Words -- We Love Them

Last chance for these fictional tales about Coney Island by my deceased partner Robert Lagerstrom. A signed hardcover is available from me (cliffbrowder@verizon.net) for $25.00, or otherwise as indicated below.  Fiction for the hardy few who like a good read that conveys the varying moods of an aging gay professor who chronicles his past escapades and the decay of the Coney he has known and loved, matching the decay of his own physical being.


A Coney Island of the Past:

The Professor and Other Tales of Coney Island

by Robert Lagerstrom


8479295

Hardcover available from Amazon for $30.99, and e-book on Kindle for $9.99.
Paperback available from Xlibris for $20.99.


Dirty  Words -- We Love Them


         This post is about profanity.  What I confess here may cost me some friendships, since I'm going to reveal my dark heart and foul tongue.  But first of all, what is profanity? There’s no easy, all-embracing answer, since opinions vary with time and place.  The word itself is a noun formed from the adjective profane, which comes via Old French from the Latin profanare, “to desecrate, render unholy, violate,” and from profanus, “unholy, not consecrated,” which in turn comes from pro fano, meaning “in front of the temple” -- in other words outside it, secular, or desecrating what is holy. 

         Yet today we use the word “profanity” to indicate indecorous language, language that is obscene and therefore forbidden; it may or may not be blasphemous or sacrilegious. Profane language today can be blasphemous, using God’s name in vain (a violation of the Third Commandment), or obscene, often using certain common four-letter (and sometimes five-letter) English words that designate the bodily functions of sex and excretion.  Freud long ago observed that the close proximity of our organs of sex and excretion has caused humanity a huge deal of woe, and he was probably right.

         What originally brought this subject to mind, where it has probably been lurking long since, is a review in the New York Times of October 2, 2016, of two new books on the subject: Benjamin K. Bergen, What the F: What Swearing Reveals about Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves (Basic Books, 271 pp.), and Michael Adams, In Praise of Profanity (Oxford University Press, 253 pp.).  I have perused neither of these new arrivals, but note that the first sounds learned and analytical, whereas the second sounds like a joyful celebration of our use of dirty words. The Times  reviewer, Josh Lambert, salutes Benjamin Bergen’s treatment of the subject, but notes that it “saps a little of the joy out of dirty words.”  Michael Adams’s book, on the other hand, catalogs the many benefits of cursing a blue streak.  (Why “blue,” by the way?  Why not red or yellow or black?  But let’s not digress.)  He observes that today is a wonderful time to swear, involving little risk while letting one feel brave and subversive.  The 21st century in America is – for the moment, since these things can change – the Golden Age of Profanity.

         I’m glad to hear it, because as far back as I can remember, I have cursed.  Not loudly, in public, but muttering sotto voce, while swearing resoundingly in private.  Given my soft-spoken and temperate public manner, my effusions of sweetness and light, my friends probably don’t even suspect the raging curses and resonant profanities of my private moments.  What sets me off?  For the most part, trivia: a slight stumble, a misbehaving computer, something misplaced and urgently needed, something dropped on the floor, a junk phone call or even a welcome one at an inopportune moment: in short, the minor mishaps and trivial contretemps of daily living, which most people dismiss with a shrug.  And what exactly do I say?  (Here all delicate and easily affronted viewers should tune out.)  Expletives like these:

·      Shit!  A thousand times shit!
·      God shit-ass damn!
·      Holy fuck.
·      Oh puke! 
·      You blatant prick, shut up!  (To the phone.)
·      You goddam piece of shit!  (To my computer.)
·      Jesus H. Christ!  (No idea what the stands for.)
·      Holy turd!
·      You filthy cocksucker!  (Usually to some inanimate object.)

         So here are Christian and scatological terms in a feisty mix.  Certainly I’m no stranger to the seven dirty words banned from radio and television: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, montherfucker, tits.  But if once, momentarily vexed in my childhood, I called a friend as “a saber-toothed tiger,” I confess that my arsenal of expletives today is sadly deficient in originality.  And when a friend, by chance overhearing a few of my utterances, thought he discerned a note of conscious and intentional blasphemy, I replied that in all honesty I was simply using the swear words I had grown up hearing all around me – not in my family, but on the playground, at school, and on the street -- without any thought of intentional blasphemy or sacrilege. 

         What would be a good example of truly original profanity?  There are plenty in Shakespeare, but the most memorable one that I know of is an outburst mouthed in King Lear by Kentwho to his face calls another character


Now that is swearing --  good, earthy, gutsy profanity.  While the familiar “son of a bitch,” richly renewed, is buried in there, the whole spiel reeks of a lurid originality that few of us today can match.  Indeed, our current vocabulary is by comparison tepid and threadbare.  (Why the blue print, by the way?  I have no idea.  My computer's idea.)

         Once, on the phone, while talking to a representative of my health care plan, I in frustration muttered a soft “Jesus Christ!”  “There’s no need for profanity,” the representative officiously announced, which provoked in me a rare burst of fury.  I almost said to him, “Sir, that comment was not meant for your ears, but since you heard it and saw fit to respond, please be advised that if I want to use such language, I fucking well will!”  I squelched the impulse to say it, but ever since have regretted that I didn't.  A unique incident in my experience that revealed to me my passionate belief that I have the right to swear as I please.  

          (A side note: I have almost never cursed in the state of Indiana.  I have family and friends there, and they and Hoosiers generally are so welcoming, so decent, and so tolerant of this slightly depraved New Yorker venturing in their midst, that I feel no need or desire even sotto voce to curse.)

         But do I have the right to swear?  Back in 1999 I heard of the arrest of a young man in Michigan who, because his canoe capsized, soaking him, and because his buddies then guffawed, spouted a torrent of oaths.  A mother canoeing with her two young children was shocked at hearing him and covered the ears of one child, but couldn’t protect the other from this verbal assault.  A sheriff’s deputy on patrol nearby ticketed the offender for a misdemeanor under an old law of 1913 and later testified that the profanity could be heard a quarter of a mile away.  Though the ACLU rushed to the defendant’s rescue, the "cussing canoeist" was convicted and could have served 90 days in jail.  Such language, the prosecutor said, would be tolerated "maybe in New York City, but not in Standish, Michigan."  But in 2002 the Michigan appeals court overturned the 1913 law, saying that it violated the First Amendment.  Be that as it may, I would have gladly consoled the defendant by saying that, there but for the grace of You Know Who, went me.  The "curser" (as his buddies at work termed him) had no intention of offending others in public, but was prompted by a sudden unforeseen mishap.  A quick bit of online research shows that these cases, and the issues they raise, are quite common.

         While I vigorously affirm my right (except in Indiana) to swear, I also confess that, when provoked by some trivial occurrence, my profanity is just plain stupid and childish.  To counter or alleviate it, I have three stratagems.

1.    Squelch it.  Often when, provoked by the misbehavior of some trivial object, a torrent of expletives is about to burst from my mouth, I stifle the torrent and say instead, reprovingly, “Why you naughty little recalcitrant object!”  Tame, yes, and perhaps insipid, but a stab at minimal gentility. 

2.    Cancel it out.  On the advice of a Catholic friend, to eliminate an unintended blasphemy I say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  And believe me, I say it a lot.

3.    Smother it in sentiment.  This, at least, shows a little originality.  When a screeching “Fuck you!” blasts forth (at some object, not a person), I soften and sentimentalize it by singing “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you…” to the tune of “Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart,” the celebrated duet sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in the 1937 film Maytime, a love story so lyrically and drippingly sentimental that the mere thought of it steeps me in a cloyingly sweet stink of apple blossoms:

Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart,
Will you remember me ever
Will you remember this day
When we were happy in May …

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
I’ll love you black and blue
I won’t remember this day
When we were so gaga in May …

Or something of the sort, since my lyrics, determinedly silly and offensive, change from day to day.  Not great poetry, but it serves a purpose.

         Of course the standards of gentility, and therefore of profanity, have undergone transformations throughout the centuries, with the middle and ruling classes much concerned with such matters, and the working class much less so.  Goshand golly are softenings of Godand geeze and gee and geeze surely stem from Jesus.  Copulate and penis are 16th-century stand-ins for coarser (i.e., working-class) terms.  White meat and dark meat, commonly used even today when carving or serving poultry at the table, were coined to avoid such vulgarisms as breast and leg.  And we habitually use restroom or a room that has little to do with repose.  Victorian mores shunned any direct reference to the physical.  As a friend once informed me, back in those genteel days sweat was not to be applied to humans.  “Animals sweat,” went the rule, “people perspire, and young ladies glow.”

         Just in my own time, things have changed.  When Clark Gable, near the end of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, uttered the forbidden word damn – “Frankly, my dear,” he tells Vivien Leigh, “I don’t give a damn!” -- it had resonance.  But in the 1974 film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the fast-talking waitress Flo, played brilliantly by the actress Diane Ladd, utters reams of profanities that fly by the audience’s ears with the speed of lightning, but register nonetheless as profane. And for that gritty role Ms. Ladd got an award for best supporting actress.

         If we laugh at the euphemisms of past generations, someday future generations will laugh at ours.  Even in our supposedly liberated age – the Golden Age of Profanity, when almost anything goes – some words are forbidden.  Feminists have compelled us to avoid the “c-word,” designating female genitalia, and our growing ethnic sensitivity has rendered the “n-word” taboo, except when spoken by African Americans among themselves.  And if shit and perhaps fuck are slowly winning acceptance, the free use of fart and cocksucker still distresses some.  Political correctness vs. honest candor is an ongoing war, and gentility still, on occasion, raises its formidable head.  Which makes our language interesting, and thrusts upon us the eternal challenge of knowing when, and when not, to use certain juicy but forbidden words.  But let’s face it, using them is fun.

©  2018  Clifford Browder






Sunday, October 7, 2018

376. Patagonia, Alinka, Caroline, and How I Won't Grow Rich



A Coney Island of the Past:

The Professor and Other Tales of Coney Island

by Robert Lagerstrom


8479295

Hardcover available from Amazon for $30.99, and e-book on Kindle for $9.99.
Paperback available from Xlibris for $20.99.

Following my presentation of the book in last week's post, there’s been only one sale so far, leaving me with eight copies, which admittedly isn’t much.  Not a surprise, since I discouraged sales, saying only those who savor Proust and Beckett should buy.  To whom I now add Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose epic read, My Struggle, is now available in English – all six volumes.  Hailed as the Norwegian Proust, Knausgaard is viewed as alternately brilliant and dull.  Robert Lagerstrom’s The Professor, being much shorter (only 138 pages), is far less challenging.  In my opinion, it’s worth getting for just one of the stories, whose conclusion is heartbreaking.  But I still caution that it’s not for everyone.  Robert has heart, he identifies with freaks and misfits, of whom his book has many, and he is a master of style and mood.  But now, on to my latest adventures as a writer, a short post inspired by recent developments.  Short it certainly is, but I couldn’t resist.


Patagonia, Alinka, and Carolyn,
and How I Won’t Grow  Rich


They want me in Patagonia.  No, not that dry, bleak, windy southern stretch of Argentina; my stretch doesn’t reach that far.  I mean Patagonia, Arizona, population 913, in Santa Cruz County, at the very southern part of the state, near the Mexican border.  I got an e-mail from the librarian there, explaining that they have a program to make known to their readers self-published books that might otherwise escape their attention.  If I would donate a copy of No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my one self-published work, they would display it and otherwise make t known to their readers, and report to me the number of times it gets checked out.  But, I asked, would Arizonans in a little town so far from New York be interested in my New York-based works?  Absolutely, the librarian replied.  I’d be surprised how many New Yorkers they had there, and the New Yorker is one of the most popular periodicals in their collection.  So off I mailed a copy, delighted at the idea of being read in this far distant little town in Arizona.  But how had they ever heard of me?  My name, the librarian informed me, was listed as “a hit new indie author in Alinka Rutkowsky’s weekly LibraryBub newsletter.  Which was the first hard evidence that Alinka and her newsletter were doing me any good.  So who, then, is Alinka? 

         Alinka Rutkowsky is, as she proclaims, a best-selling author of business and money titles who out of the goodness of her heart, and her instinct for flashy self-promotion, wants to help indie authors achieve the astonishing success that she has known.  For a fee, of course.  She has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, and just about any other venue you can think of.  Write and Grow Rich is the title she’s currently promoting, though all her books promise to supercharge a writer’s career.  And how have I connected with this phenomenon?  She is the founder of LibraryBub, a service that, by featuring them in her online publication, claims to connect indie authors with over 10,000 librarians.  

          I was initially suspicious, since there now exists a whole industry of shrewd authors promising to promote your career -- for a fee, of course.  The best way to promote your own career is to offer -- for a fee, of course -- advice to aspiring young and not-so-young writers.  But since librarians are a significant part of my target audience, last June I shelled out hard coin -- to the tune of $299.00 (less than a booth at a book fair, I rationalized) -- and signed up for the program.  Then I waited and waited. Finally, last August, my historical novel Dark Knowledge (and a lot of other books) was featured online for two weeks.  The results: the newsletter mentioning my book was opened 4909 times by librarians, and my Amazon link was clicked 409 times.  Did this lead to sales?  Who knows?  If librarians decide to buy the book, they will do so during their purchasing period, which may be months from now.  But I’ve had great exposure, Alinka assures me, and my book was included in a press release that was picked up by that holy trinity, NBC, ABC, and CBS.  Meanwhile I live on hope.  Which is why the request from Patagonia, even if it cost me money, was most welcome.  If dinner is uncertain, one settles now for crumbs.

          So much for her service.  But who is Alinka herself?  Book promoters all emphasize the importance of the author’s photograph; it must grab the attention of readers.  So for Alinka, who wants her readers to “write and grow rich,” I expected a figure of authority, stern and awe-inspiring, like Michelangelo’s Sibyls on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  


File:CumaeanSibylByMichelangelo.jpg
The Cumaean Sibyl.  Not sexy, to say the least.  But notice how he snuck in
two naked boys behind her.
Instead, I found a deliciously charming young blonde with a winsome, almost flirtatious look.  Frankly, she is just plain flat-out sexy.  For me, she inspires all kinds of thoughts, none of them about getting rich – at least, not by writing books.  Not that I doubt her success; clearly, she has written and grown rich.  And more power to her, if she can have her cake and eat it, too.  But I’m not buying Write and Grow Rich.  For advice of that ilk, I prefer Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher.  It better suits my modest budget and ambitions.  And the author’s photo (not included in the book), white-haired and spectacled, though with a winning smile, isn’t trying to seduce me.  She and Alinka are both great self-promoters, but they have different styles.  More power to them both.  But Carolyn Howard-Johnson looks like she wants to be friends.


                              BROWDERBOOKS


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018.





Reviews

"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

"To read No Place for Normal: New York is to enter into Cliff Browder’s rich and engaging sixty years of adult life in New York. Yes, he delves back before his time – from the city’s origins to the 19th Century that Ms. Trollope and Mr. Dickens encounter to robber barons and slums that marked highs and lows of the earlier Twentieth Century. But Browder has lived such an engaged and curious life that he can’t help but cross paths with every layer and period of society. There is something Whitmanesque in his outlook."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Michael P. Hartnett.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.






Reviews

"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 




New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  What price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?

Reviews

"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, but women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)







Reviews

"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


5.  Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies (Black Rose Writing, 2018).  A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.



Fascinating NYers eimage.jpg


Reviews

"Fascinating New Yorkers by Clifford Browder was like sitting down with a dear friend and catching up on the latest gossip and stories. Written with a flair to keep the reader turning the pages, I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about the subjects of each New Yorker. I love NYC and this book just added to the list of reasons why, a must read for those who love NYC and the people who have lived there." Five-star NetGalley review by Patty Ramirez, librarian.

"Unputdownable."  Five-star review by Dipali Sen, retired librarian.

"I felt like I was gossiping with a friend when reading this, as the author wrote about New Yorkers who are unique in one way or another. I am hoping for another book featuring more New Yorkers, as I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting!" Five-star NetGalley review by Cristie Underwood. 


©   2018   Clifford Browder