Sunday, January 6, 2019

390. Three New York Adventures and a Browderboost

Big news!  Here is the cover of my next book, The Eye That Never Sleeps, the fourth title in my Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York.  For the other three titles in the series, and my nonfiction, see below under BROWDERBOOKS.

The Eye That Never Sleeps eimage.jpg

More of this in next week’s blog.

               Three New York Adventures

New York is never dull; adventures abound. Recently I had three in one week on my street, West 11th.

Adventure #1:  Returning from errands one morning, I found a neighbor and longtime friend flat on the floor of the vestibule, unable to get to his feet.  While getting his mail from his mailbox, he had slipped on a pile of loose newspapers that had accumulated in the vestibule, unclaimed by our ever absent neighbors.
         “I can’t get up,” he said.  “I’m so embarrassed.”
         “Don’t be embarrassed,” I said.  “This is a practical problem with a practical solution.  I’ll get you up, but you’ll have to cooperate.  First, slide over so I can enter.  I can’t help you from out here.”
         Where my assurance came from, I’ll never know.  He slid, I entered.
         “Now I’m going to open the inner door and hold it open with the door stop.  Then I want you to slide or crawl into the building and over to the foot of the stairs.”
         Still muttering about his embarrassment, he slid himself into the building and reached the foot of the stairs.
         “Now,” I said, “lift yourself up onto the lowest step.  I’ll help, if necessary.”
         With effort, he lifted himself up onto the lowest step without any help from me.
         “Now,” I said, “lift yourself up onto the second step.”
         With effort, he did.
         “Bravo,” I said.  “Now onto the third step, if you can.”
         With effort, he did.
         “Now,” I said, pretentiously in command, “grab hold of the railing and lift yourself up.  Get your legs under you.  I’ll help, if necessary.”
         With great effort, but without help from me, he grabbed the railing of the stairs and lifted himself up.  Once on his feet, he was fine.  I gave him his mail, and he started up the stairs.  I followed.  Exhausted and greatly relieved, he entered his apartment.  What luck for him that I had come when I did!  End of Adventure #1.

                  Normal?  Not me!  I'm a New Yorker.

Adventure #2.  On a recent Sunday I lunched again at Philip Marie, a popular restaurant on the corner of West 11th and Hudson Streets, just a block from my building.  As usual, it was jammed and noisy, but because I was alone, they could seat me at a table for two; larger groups had to wait.  I ordered my usual: yogurt and granola topped with sliced strawberries, followed by a cappuccino.  Having nibbled cheese and sipped wine in my apartment, I needed no more.  The noise was so great – New Yorkers talk, as they live, with intensity – I couldn’t hear even a word of the conversation of the two young women at the table next to mine.  But I had a good view of a young woman seated with her male escort at a certain distance from my table.  I couldn’t not see her.  She was attractive but not a stellar beauty, but she flashed a warm smile, while talking cheerfully with her companion.  When I paid my bill and was preparing to leave, I had a sudden impulse to go over to their table and say to her,
         “Please don’t be offended my my comment; it’s meant as a compliment.  If I were younger (which I’m not), and if I were straight (which I’m not), I would want to know young women like you.  He” – a gesture toward her companion – “is a lucky guy.”
         And having said this, I would leave.  Though strongly tempted to do it, I chose to be cautious and left without saying a word.  She never knew I even existed.
         A query to all the women who read this post:  If a total stranger came up to you while dining in a restaurant and addressed you in this fashion, would you be flattered, annoyed, or maybe just puzzled, wondering, “Who is this nut and what does he want?”  The men can answer too, but it’s the reaction of women that I most want.  Please do let me know.  New York being New York, I’ll probably never see her or her escort again.

                 New York: Is there anywhere else?

Adventure #3.  Leaving the restaurant, I found the weather windless and mild enough that I decided to walk down West 11th toward the river.  Between Greenwich and Washington Streets, on the north or uptown side of West 11th, I came to a series of storefronts on what is otherwise a mostly residential block.  I have chronicled this stretch before, with wine bars, a café, a beauty salon, etc.  But what caught my eye once again was, under a red lantern, the cluttered window of Turks & Frogs, a wine bar, with WINE in gold letters in front of it. 

Not the window display that I saw, but the sloop,
the two-candle candelabras, and the vertical
ANTIQUES sign are recognizable.
Photo courtesy of Turks & Frogs.

         Intrigued, I stopped and studied it.  In the middle of the window was a low three-drawer cabinet only two and a half feet high, and on top of it, a large model of a Hudson River sloop.  In front of the sloop were three small bound volumes tied together that, when I squinted, I deciphered as Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples, first published in four volumes in 1956.  On one side of the cabinet was a large glass bowl full to the brim with corks.  Near it were a two-candle candelabra, an orange globe of the world suspended from the ceiling, and what looked like the gaping mouth of an old Victrola speaker.  On the other side of the cabinet was a matching two-candle candelabra, a large wicker basket enclosing a one-gallon wine jug, a vertical sign saying ANTIQUES, and another lantern.  The whole window looked charmingly old and quaint – antiques indeed, and I, a history buff, made notes to remember in detail the display, the most interesting one I have seen on West 11th from Seventh Avenue all the way to the river.  Peering in the front door, I could see a darkened interior with a row of tables each with a lit lamp: an inviting décor, but with no one – patrons or staff – in sight.  How could it be so empty?
         Later, back home at my computer, I learned that Turks & Frogs opens  at 4 p.m. – which explained why, when I saw it at 3 p.m., it was empty.  And since it stays open until 4 a.m., it must entice patrons deep into the night.  I also learned what mulled wine is: a wine, usually red, infused with spices and served warm.  What kind of midnight revels it hosts, I will never know, since I'm not a midnight guy.  But mulled wine seems like just the thing to warm you up on a cold and windy winter night!  And since it is known as glögg in Sweden, I encountered it long ago when I and my mother were invited over to a friend’s house for snacks and a glass of glögg.  I still remember the wonderful spiced aroma given off by the wine.  Maybe sometime this winter I will conceive a yearning for it and, soon after 4 p.m., satisfy it at Turks & Frogs.  Thus ends, for now, Adventure #3.  Would anyone like to go some late afternoon to Turks & Frogs?  

         Because I deem it truly imaginative and original, and capable of lifting the spirit, I hereby award the Turks & Frogs window display a BROWDERBOOST, a purely verbal award (no $) that I give out only rarely on my outings in this city.  Congrats, Turks & Frogs.

           Intensity + diversity = creativity = New York.

         Has anyone else had a New York adventure?  Needn’t be a big one; maybe just a small one, even trivial, like mine.  If so, let me know.  With your permission, I may share it with followers of this blog. 

Coming soon: Some extracts from my deceased partner Bob's diaries.  Those who knew him may be shocked.


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.


"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.


"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?


"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.)


"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


"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. 

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©   2019   Clifford Browder   

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