Posts from September 2009

You Can Go Home Again… Sort Of

Posted by Carole Stuart on September 08, 2009

What was a nonsports fan doing in Coney Island last week? Baseball, that’s what. I can follow the game but just about. I was invited by a group of passionate sports fans who meet and eat and talk weekly at a favorite eatery in Greenwich Village. (I can’t reveal the name because then you’d know about it, and I’d never get in the place.)

The plot was hatched by Steve Jones, owner of The Knickerbocker (oops, there goes his cover) who scored tickets to watch the Brooklyn Cyclones get beat 4-2 by the Hudson Valley Renegades, both minor league teams.

The Cyclones are a farm team for the Mets. That night, Carlos Beltran, a Mets star who has knee trouble, was rehabbing with the Cyclones. The weather was fine, the moon was almost full. The stadium, unlikely as it seemed to me, is two blocks away from Nathan’s Famous, on the site of the equally famous Parachute Jump, set scenically behind right field, the beach beyond it.

It wasn’t a good night for Beltran. He had a hit and an RBI in the first inning, but later, Beltran got tagged out diving back to first when the batter fanned. And in the eighth inning, he comes up with a man on and strikes out on a bad pitch. Big play of the game, it turns out. Air goes out of the balloon. Cyclones die.

At that point, Steve stands up and yells, “Send him back to the majors!”

The pitcher who struck out the great Beltran looked to be about two years out of high school. I could see him calling his mom to tell her how he sent the great Met down to defeat.

If you want to read the fuller, funnier version of the above, check out Lew Grossberger’s blog. This one can be found here.

What really brought me to the party was the chance to ride the N train from Manhattan to the end of the line – Stillwell Avenue – Coney Island. When I was a kid, my Hamptons beach was Bay 8th Street, Coney Island.

Walk out of the train station, cross the street, and there is Nathan’s. Walk down to the boardwalk, and there’s my beach. They prettied it up a bit, but the sand and ocean were the same as when my mother spread her blanket, and my sister, mom and I spent our summer days. At the end of the day, we’d shake out the sand, and hidden by a giant towel, we squirmed out of our sandy, wet bathing suits into our clothing. On the way to the train, we always stopped at Nathan’s for a better hot dog than the one I had last week.

On Tuesday nights, we often stayed late for fireworks. And sometimes, my father met us. He’d belly up to the counter at Nathan’s and bring us a paper plate laden with six or eight dogs piled high. Fries were in a cone cup. Delicious. The ride home on the train was preceded by a stop at Phillips – a store on the corner just before you’d enter the train station. They sold saltwater taffy, candied apples, popcorn, and such. My sister, Jane, and I would switch off each day: One would get sweet, the other salty popcorn. The sweet bag had bright pink kernels mixed into the white ones. Those were special and saved for last. Philips is gone now. Lyle and I visited it for one last look and one last bag of popcorn before they closed and for a major renovation of the train station. Philips never returned but the train station is spectacular.

This trip on the BMT/N was my lifeline. I lived in Borough Park and took the train every weekday to New Utrecht High School. It’s still there – I saw it out of the train window. Most of the trip was above ground. The train route was on an elevated track that we used to call the “El.” On this visit, the train became an amusement ride passing through familiar and new neighborhoods. Most of the buildings were the same as I remembered them, but the signs were different, ”Sushi,” “Bodega,” reflecting a new group of residents. The variety of language on the signs was evidence of the ethnicity of the population.

I saw myself getting off at my high-school station, stopping at Chookies, our candy store hangout where girls in pleated skirts, knee socks and tight sweaters flirted with boys, not quite knowing what we were doing. When I got older, during the summer I spent my teen years on the Coney Island beach with my friends. We flirted with the lifeguards, so cute with their tans and sailor hats. We were awkward, self-conscious because most of us hadn’t yet “developed” and wore bathing suits with padded bras, which, when wet, creased badly revealing flat chests.

Life was not without anxiety, fears that “bad girl” gangs might beat us up if we looked at their boyfriends. It was fun, too, being a cheerleader, being popular.

Many years later, I went to a reunion of my graduating class. It was held near the school in a catering hall in Bensonhurst. I discovered that people who go to reunions usually feel they look pretty good or have turned out well.

I was an underachiever, an average student, but with lots of pals. By the time of the reunion I had a good and interesting life. It surprised at least one of my old friends, who commented at the reunion, “Who would have thought you’d do so well?”

I have done well. It’s been a good life. The trip to Brooklyn brought it all back.

WHAT’S A HOT NEWS WITHOUT NEWS ABOUT OUR BOOKS?
Enough of the nostalgia. I got carried away with myself. So now a little, old-fashioned book plugging.

It comes as no news that book publishing is in shambles. Bigger guys than little Barricade are pulling in their belts until you can hear the screams. We are in a holding pattern ourselves with emphasis on our good backlist.

Backlist titles are the foundation of a publishing company, No matter how successful a front list book is, it’s the backlist that gets us through those rainy seasons. We’ve had more than our share of bad weather, but we are okay. If I said “fantastic,” it would be a lie, but we are okay.

Our backlist is sometimes outselling our new titles. A star at the moment is the 7th edition of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF US PRESIDENTS by William A. DeGregorio. The book is now edited by Sandra Lee Stuart, whose name will be familiar to most of my readers. She’s my stepdaughter and a talented editor and writer. This edition, with a chapter about Barack Obama, shipped out very nicely.

Another backlist winner is LIVING THE MARTIAL WAY by Ret. Maj. Forrest E. Morgan, of the United States Air Force. It is now in its 16th year and is a consistent excellent seller. MARLEY AND ME (not the dog – the singer) has also been selling well over many years.

New now and selling is ROD SERLING AND THE TWILIGHT ZONE. The 50th anniversary of the television series is coming up in October, and there will be signings in Binghamton and Ithaca, N.Y., where Serling lived and taught, The book offers an insightful look at Rod Serling’s life, Zone’s most memorable episodes and why they resonate so forcefully with viewers. There is an introduction and commentary by Serling’s wife, Carol, and photos of some of the show’s most famous actors and edgiest shots.

JAILING THE JOHNSTON GANG, is the story of a gang of serial murderers, Norman, David and Bruce A. Johnston Sr. that terrorized communities throughout the East Coast of the United States. This bottom-of-the-gene-pool family also killed each other. This title has been a happy surprise with an author who hand-sold the book initially until the chains finally caught onto it and started ordering copies. Last of this short list is BALLS, the life of Eddie Trascher, “gentleman gangster” who scammed money from the mob and lived to tell the story. Our third book by Scott Deitche, (CIGAR CITY MAFIA, THE SILENT DON) this one is co-authored with Ken Sanz. Deitche has been a sensational promoter and we expect more of the same with this one.

You can check all these titles on the Web site for more information. And you can buy copies at bookshops or directly from Barricade.

Until next time,
Carole

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