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Flatbush Flashback

No Asterisk for Maury Wills

 

"With the transistor radio pressed to my ear, I can feel the electricity of 25,000 people in Dodger Stadium and a million more who are tuned in coast-to-coast. I can feel it pouring into Maury Wills, surging through his body. The Dodger infielder, having drawn yet another walk against the Chicago Cubs, takes a huge lead off first base, and the frenzied L.A. crowd, knowing he's feeding off their energy, is on its feet, chanting 'Go, Maury, go!' willing him to fly, to again steal second, now only 80 feet away." —from Bobby in Naziland

 

In the summer of 1962, I listened to a lot of baseball on a transistor radio my parents had given me for my birthday. Mostly I tuned in to the Yankees, the reigning World Series champs. Since the Brooklyn Dodgers had split for L.A., in 1957, I'd become a Bronx Bomber fan. There was no choice, really. I never understood how anybody could root for the Mets, the "lovable losers" created out of thin air, in 1962, to replace the irreplaceable Dodgers.

 

When the Yankees had a day off, I'd listen to a Dodger game if I could find one. Of course it bothered me that "dem bums" had moved 2,500 miles away, but fellow Brooklyn Jew Sandy Koufax was still a Dodger, so I felt a connection to "dem," though Koufax had been injured in July and was out for the rest of the season.

 

Even without Koufax, the Dodgers were a thrilling team—thanks to Maury Wills, a player I could relate to, despite his lack of Jewishness. Unlike my Yankee idols, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who blasted baseballs into the bleachers, Wills, a 5-foot-10-inch, 160-pound infielder, who never hit more than six home runs in a season, got by on pure speed. I, too, was a fast runner and I devoted a significant portion of my childhood to trying to figure out how to apply my speed to baseball, even though my hitting abilities were akin to those of Gus Bell, the Mets right fielder, who finished the '62 season batting a hefty .149. If I could just find a way to get on base, I thought that I could be like Maury Wills.

 

With Wills providing the spark, the Dodgers were locked in a life-and-death struggle for the National League pennant with those other New York deserters, the San Francisco Giants, with the winner gaining the right to lose the World Series to the invincible Yankees.

 

Hanging out in front of my house or wandering around the neighborhood, I'd listen to Dodger games, the voice of Vin Scully transporting me to distant ballparks where I'd become one with the crowd, urging Wills to get on base and make something happen—and just about every time he came to bat, something did happen.

 

Though hitting an unspectacular .299, Wills's blazing speed forced errors, turned routine ground balls into singles, and turned walks into triples. His on-base percentage was .347, and every time he got on base, everybody watching or listening to the game knew he was going to try to steal—second, third, and sometimes home. There was little anybody could do to stop him. In 117 attempts, he was thrown out stealing only 13 times—8 of those times on hit-and-run plays when the batter didn't hit the ball. No team's entire roster had more steals than Maury Wills alone. The Washington Senators came closest, with 99.

 

Wills stole his 96th and 97th bases, tying and breaking Ty Cobb's record of 96 steals, which had stood for 47 years, in the 156th game of the season, on September 23, 1962, in a 12–2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. (No asterisk for Maury!)

 

The Dodgers and Giants both won 100 games, finishing tied for first place and forcing a three-game playoff series. On October 3, in the seventh inning of game three, Wills stole his final base of the season—number 104.

 

But the Giants pulled the game out—1951 déjà vu all over again!!!—and went on to lose the World Series to the Yankees.

 

I watched game seven on TV, a 1–0 nail-biter at Candlestick Park. The game ended as Willie McCovey lined out hard to second baseman Bobby Richardson, with the tying and winning runs on second and third base.

 

Somewhere Maury Wills, the National League MVP—Willie Mays of the Giants, batting .304, with 49 home runs and 141 RBIs, finished second in the balloting—was watching, too.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you should (and probably can buy it again).

 

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40 Sacred, Scruffy Acres

 

"Once I was allowed to cross Caton Avenue on my own, I could play baseball anytime I wanted, though not terribly well, on the sacred, scruffy sandlots of the Parade Grounds." —from Bobby in Naziland

 

The official name has always been Parade Ground, but nobody called it that. Today, these 40 acres of ball fields, unrecognizable to my eye, are partitioned with fences and covered with artificial turf. A sign over one of the entrances confirms the official name, so maybe modern-day Flatbushians call it Parade Ground.

 

Fifty-five years ago, when I lived a half block away, on East 17th Street, everybody called it the Parade Grounds, plural, and there were no signs indicating otherwise. To say "Parade Ground" doesn't sound right to me and never will.

 

It was a wide-open space and there was no artificial turf, either. Astroturf, as it was first called, didn't exist. The Parade Grounds were, as the above excerpt says, a collection of dusty, scruffy, unmanicured baseball fields. Blades of grass were few and far between. When you played ball there, especially in the summer, you'd return home covered in gritty red clay.

 

Come autumn, combination football goalposts and soccer goals appeared, and gridirons were marked off. Though somebody must have played soccer there, I never saw anyone do it and I didn't know anyone who did. The Parade Grounds were for baseball and football because that was the American Way.

 

And the grounds were sacred, especially if you were Jewish and loved baseball, as most of us were and did. The Parade Grounds were where Jewish, Brooklyn-born Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, of Lafayette High School, learned to throw his unhittable curve ball before joining the Brooklyn (soon-to-be LA) Dodgers.

 

In the above photo, taken in 1928 from a rooftop near Coney Island Avenue, the Parade Grounds look similar to the way they were in the 1950s and 1960s. The corner of Caton Avenue and Stratford Road is behind the trees on the upper right, and Parade Place, which turned into East 17th Street when you crossed Caton Avenue, is at the upper left.

 

The number of times I crossed Caton Avenue with either a baseball mitt or football tucked under my arm is incalculable.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you should (and probably can) buy it again.

 

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Church Avenue Stories

 

"Then [my father] had to return to those grueling 12-hour shifts, the ones that began in the predawn Church Avenue gloom, when the drunks came staggering out of Byrne's 'gin mill' across the street and made their way to the candy store's front window to croak, 'Bromo Seltzer.' And my father would serve it to them, one foaming glassful of stomach-settling swill after another, 12 cents a pop, thereby earning his first dollar of the day." —from Bobby in Naziland

 

The awning in the above photo is the entrance to Byrne's bar or "gin mill," if you prefer that term. It's one of the places from which the intoxicated multitudes emerged around four in the morning when the bars closed. They then stumbled across the street to order a Bromo Seltzer from my father's candy store. The glasses he used to serve the Bromo were the same glasses he'd use later in the day to serve his famous egg creams, which were the same price, 12 cents, and were said to taste like chocolate ambrosia.

 

I didn't remember the name of the bar until I came across the photo. I rarely walked on that side of Church Avenue—I wasn't allowed to cross the street by myself until I was eight. Byrne's didn't hold the same fascination for me as the Maple Court Tavern, on my side of the avenue. Even after it had gone to seed, the Maple Court seemed like a more interesting place, and I'd always stop to look inside as I walked past on warm days, when they'd leave the door open. Byrne's just seemed dark and unappealing—the diviest of the local dive bars.

 

The character I call Aileen Murphy—the girl who prowled Church Avenue with a vicious dog after she was released from reform school—lived above Byrne's. Even after I was allowed to cross the street, I usually kept to my own side to avoid running into her and her provocatively named mutt. (See Bobby in Naziland, Chapter 1.)

 

Three stores to the left of Byrne's was the Savoy. Though I didn't write about it in Bobby in Naziland, this greasy spoon was a place my father often sent me to retrieve a cup of coffee when he was working in the candy store. Sometimes my family ate dinner there; I always ordered the hot open roast beef sandwich and, when permitted, the marshmallow sundae for dessert. (Neighborhood denizens will recall Matty the waiter.)

 

One afternoon when I was in the third grade, I walked into the Savoy and saw a bunch of teachers from my school, PS 249, sitting at a table in the back, eating lunch. They were so out of context I didn't know how to process this vision. I'd never seen any of them, including my own teacher, Mrs. Fletcher, outside the confines of the school. Mrs. Fletcher waved to me. I stood there dumbfounded, before finally deciding that I should wave back. But I was afraid I'd done something wrong and would be in trouble the next time I showed up for class. In those days I lived in a perpetual state of thinking I'd done something wrong.

 

Which isn't all that different from how I feel today.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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The Emotional Resonance of Common Household Objects

 

The Kelvinator in the above photo is identical to the refrigerator we had for the 12 years we lived on East 17th Street. The landlord must have given my parents a slightly used model when they moved in, in 1953, because the refrigerator always looked little dilapidated, with ice building up in the freezer until there was barely enough room for an ice cube tray. Defrosting it was a tri-monthly ordeal. My mother first had to remove everything in the refrigerator, then chip away with an ice pick until there was enough room in the freezer to fit a pot of boiling water, and then another and another, until enormous chunks of ice began crashing to the floor. Then she'd mop the floor since it was already wet. My mother despised that refrigerator and longed for the day she could have a new one, preferably frost free, with a separate freezer compartment.

 

Like the Lewyt vacuum cleaner I wrote about in April, the Kelvinator is one of the numerous household objects I searched for on the Internet to jog my memory as I was writing Bobby in Naziland. It always surprised me how much emotional resonance certain common objects held, and how many memories they evoked, especially if I hadn't seen them in more than a half century, and especially if in the ensuing years they'd taken on the appearance of antiques. Looking at such objects underscored how much time had passed since I'd last seen them for real.

 

Memory itself is one of the subjects I explore in the book, and I noted in a chapter called "Speak, Memory" that if you grew up anytime after the late 1940s, it's possible to piece together the lost world of your childhood from fragments found on the Internet. It's all there: the antique photos of the street where you lived; the videos of the decades-ago-canceled TV shows you watched; the advertisements for the toys you once owned or coveted; the vacuum cleaners your mother used, and the refrigerators she defrosted.

 

After spending several years seeking out and finding such things, it occurred to me that organic memory and digital archives can become so intertwined, sometimes you can't tell where one ends and the other begins, though these days it hardly seems to matter.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Flatbush Is My Dublin

 

Next Tuesday, June 16, is Bloomsday, the day that Ulysses, by James Joyce, takes place—in Dublin, in 1904. Joyce picked that day to commemorate his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. During their outing, while walking along the banks of the River Liffey, Barnacle put her hand into Joyce's trousers and masturbated him. It left an impression.

 

Ulysses is one of those novels that everybody knows about but few people have read. Its fame rests on the book's frank portrayals of sexuality. In one scene, the main character, Leopold Bloom (hence "Bloomsday") masturbates in public—probably the most poetic description of public masturbation in literature. Published in Paris in 1922, Ulysses was banned in the USA.

 

Despite its sex scenes, the book—an experimental stream-of-consciousness narrative, full of puns, parodies, and obscure allusions—is, to say the least, a challenging read.

 

I read Ulysses in 1977—simultaneously with a dictionary. On some pages I had to look up, literally, every other word, some of which were not in the dictionary. It's the kind of book that requires a sherpa to guide you through. But I stuck with it because it's considered one of the greatest novels in the English language, and in those early years of my career, I thought Ulysses was a book every writer should read.

 

I can't say I enjoyed it or understood all of it, but I did admire what Joyce accomplished. Writing in self-imposed exile in Trieste, Paris, and Zurich, he brought to life, in granular detail, the streets, alleys, pubs, bedrooms, and people of his native Dublin. Joyce transformed an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary man into a universal story. Dublin was the world.

 

Though Bobby in Naziland is neither stream-of-consciousness nor experimental and does not require a dictionary or sherpa to understand, I did try to do with Flatbush what Joyce did with Dublin: bring to life in gritty, visceral detail its streets, alleys, ball fields, bedrooms, candy stores, and people, and make it a universal story told through the consciousness of an ordinary boy. Flatbush was the world.

 

Though sheltering in place and curfews have at times made my life in Manhattan seem like one of exile, it's not. But when I started writing Bobby in Naziland, I probably hadn't set foot in Flatbush in more than a decade, and I only went back to explore my old haunts after I'd finished a first draft.

 

So yes, Flatbush is my Dublin, and I'd suggest a good way to celebrate Bloomsday next week (since it's not a great idea to hit the Irish bars yet, in the traditional, Guinness-fueled manner of celebration) is to pick up a book that you will read and that tells a universal tale of the place I left behind 55 years ago. It just might be a place that you left behind, too, even if you lived in Dublin.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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The Street Where I Lived

 

The above stretch of East 17th Street, between Church and Caton Avenues, is one of Bobby in Naziland's main settings. I lived in Brighton Hall, the building in the middle, from 1953 to 1965. The expanse of sidewalk in front is where I hung out, had almost daily fistfights, played Chinese handball, and knew every crack in the cement. It's a street I thought I'd never leave, and in a manner of speaking, I never did. I've carried East 17th Street with me all these years. The street never left me.

 

East 17th Street looks a lot different today than it did 55 years ago, but in the municipal archives photo, taken in 1939 or 1940, it's very much as I remember it. The first-floor triple-window, to the right of the entrance, is the apartment of the character I call Alan Feldman. It was below that window that "Feldman" flung me to the ground and sat on me one afternoon, in front of his jeering friends, when I told him, incorrectly, "You're too fat to take me." (Lesson learned.)

 

Two details in the photo indicate that the squalor I describe in the book—the result of a quarter-century of landlord neglect—had not yet descended on East 17th Street. Generic lighting fixtures replaced the two stylish globes on either side of the entrance, and the canopy leading to the entranceway of the marginally more upscale building next door, at the right edge of the photo, was gone by the 1950s. (Click here for a better shot of the canopy.)

 

The character I call Jeffrey Abromovitz lived in that house. His real name was Marc Barshatzky—I changed many names throughout the book—and though I hadn't seen him since high school, we remained friends into our mid-teens.

 

Several weeks ago, his sister, Susan Barrett, called to deliver the shocking news that Marc had died suddenly. A professional actress, Susan had participated in the New York launch of Bobby in Naziland, reading one of the sections about her brother. Marc's obituary paints a very different picture from the disreputable child I describe in the book.

 

His death and my serendipitous reconnection with Susan have rekindled a number of emotions that I thought I'd laid to rest when I was writing Bobby in Naziland. It's also made East 17th Street more poignant in a way I hadn't anticipated.

 

Ironic how death can make the past come alive.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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The Glory of the Loew’s Kings

 

"Or if I had 50 cents on me, I might go see a good horror film, like House of Usher—Edgar Allan Poe's premature-burial story...—at one of the rococo, multi-tiered Flatbush Avenue movie palaces, like the Albemarle, the Astor, the Rialto, or the Loew's (pronounced Lowie's) Kings. It was at the Kings, one afternoon in 1962, after sitting through a showing of The Three Stooges in Orbit, that I saw the Jewish Stooges themselves run down the aisles and take to the stage as every kid in the packed house simultaneously let loose with an ear-shattering shriek." —from Bobby in Naziland 

 

The above photo was taken the night of June 4, 2019, in the lobby of the Loew's Kings Theatre, on Flatbush Avenue. My wife and I had gone there to see Bikini Kill, the reunited 90s "riot grrrl" punk band.

 

We sat in the balcony, as we did the first time I took her to the Kings, in May 2015. That night we'd joined some of my old Erasmus classmates (the school is two block away) to hear Crosby, Stills & Nash. Walking down Flatbush Avenue and seeing the name of that iconic trio on the Kings marquee, rather than, say, The Three Stooges in Orbit, was surreal.

 

Opened in 1929, the Kings was a lavish 3,676-seat theater, one of five "Loew's Wonder Theatres," featuring both movies and live stage shows, usually of the vaudeville variety, but they soon switched to movies only. As I recounted in Bobby in Naziland, it was a place where, for 50 cents, I could escape into the worlds of Poe, Godzilla, vampires, and James Bond.

 

The Kings closed in 1977 and for more than three decades stood empty, deteriorating into a state of near-collapse. Finally, in 2010, the New York City Economic Development Corporation stepped in. Along with the Brooklyn Borough President's office, they oversaw a renovation that took four years to complete and ultimately restored the movie palace to its 1929 magnificence, which is evoked in the wall panel and window behind me in the photo. (You can see more photos here.)

 

Like much of the rest of the world, the Kings Theatre is on coronavirus hiatus. Which reminds me that John Prine (who probably appreciated the Three Stooges) was one of the 100,000 casualties. He played the Kings on April 13, 2019. We should have seen him when we had the chance.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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“I am not Josef Mengele!”

 

In May 1960, news of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's capture was flashed around the world. According to the official story, Mossad agents had snatched the Gestapo colonel off a street in Buenos Aires, where he was living under an assumed name, and spirited him back to Israel. There, Eichmann was charged with crimes against humanity, tried, found guilty, and hanged.

 

The most surprising thing I learned while doing background research for Bobby in Naziland was that the official story, which had endured for 40 years, had left out one crucial detail: how, exactly, the Mossad—the Jewish CIA—found Eichmann, the logistics expert responsible for organizing the "Final Solution."

 

That detail came to light in 2000, when the Israeli government quietly declassified the Eichmann file, which contained the story of Lothar Hermann and his teenage daughter, Sylvia.

 

Lothar, a half-Jewish former Dachau inmate, had fled to Argentina in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. There, Sylvia, who was raised Catholic and was unaware of her father's history, began dating Eichmann's son Klaus, who used his real last name, bragged to the Hermanns about his father's being a high-ranking Gestapo officer, and told them that the only mistake the Nazis made was that they'd failed to exterminate all the Jews.

 

Lothar tipped off the German authorities, who relayed the information to the Mossad. Sylvia, acting as a spy for the Mossad, gave them detailed information on Eichmann's whereabouts.

 

Until 2000, the story of Lothar and Sylvia Hermann remained unknown, even to their relatives who lived in Argentina. The 2018 release of Operation Finale, a film about Eichmann's capture, starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann, brought some attention to the father and daughter, as did a traveling museum exhibition of the same name, co-produced by the Mossad.

 

But neither the film nor the exhibition touched on another disturbing aspect of the story, which I detail in Bobby in Naziland. According to a contemporaneous account in the March 24, 1961 issue of the Argentine newspaper El Imparcial, a year after Eichmann's capture, the Mossad accused Lothar Hermann of being Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, arrested him, held him for 15 days, tortured him, and then released him when an analysis of his fingerprints showed he wasn't Mengele.

 

"No Soy Jose Mengele", nos declaro enfaticamente Lothar Hermann, the El Imparcial banner headline says ("I am not Josef Mengele," Lothar Hermann told us emphatically).

 

A more recent article, in one of the main Argentine newspapers, Clarin, published on November 27, 2011, also says that the Mossad arrested Hermann, accused him of being Mengele, and tortured him.

 

When I was in Buenos Aries, in 2017, I asked Argentine journalist Rolando Gallego if he knew about Lothar Hermann, and if it was true that the Mossad had arrested and tortured him. It was "common knowledge," he said.

 

I also asked former Mossad agent Avner Avraham, who curated the Operation Finale exhibition and was a consultant on the film, about Lothar Hermann's arrest and torture. He denied that it happened. "Why would the Mossad do that?" he said. "It makes no sense."

 

The Mossad would do that, apparently, because they mistook him for Mengele. Therefore, I included the story of Lothar Hermann's arrest and torture in Bobby in Naziland, attributing it to the contemporaneous account in El Imparcial.

 

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Summer of ’61

 

Let's return to the Maple Court Cafe, or "Tavern" as I called it in Bobby in Naziland—because that's what everybody called it, except for those who, like my father, called it a "gin mill," which is a pretty good synonym for "dive bar."

 

I blogged about the Maple Court's interior this past August, when I found a postcard from its glory days. Back then it was a quasi-classy joint, with potted plants and palm trees painted on the walls—the kind of establishment that gave away souvenir postcards.

 

The Maple Court was one of the places where Stingo, the narrator of William Styron's Sophie's Choice, hung out with Sophie, in 1947, when he lived in a rooming house in Flatbush. It was also the first bar I ever walked into. A shot from New York City's Municipal Archives, taken from the corner of East 16th Street, shows what the block looked like back in Stingo's day. You can see the Maple Court behind the "Furs" sign.

 

The above photo, courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society, was taken in June 1961, when I was eight and one of the set pieces in Bobby in Naziland was taking place: Roger Maris was in the midst of his record-breaking home run streak, hitting number 13 on June 2 and number 27 on June 22. This is how I remember the Maple Court. (The taller buildings on the right are the backs of apartment houses that faced East 17th Street.)

 

The Maple Court sign indicates "dining" and "entertainment" were on tap, but by the summer of 1961, no food was served there and the only entertainment was watching the locals get hammered. The Maple Court was dim, dingy, and uninviting, and it's long gone, the building torn down, replaced by Bobby's Dept. Store. In 1961, I might have found that more intriguing than a dive bar.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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The Sawdust-Strewn Aisles of the A&P

 

In the 1950s and 60s, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, better known as the A&P, was a chain of grocery stores that were ubiquitous in New York City. There was one in Flatbush, on Church Avenue between East 18th Street and St. Paul's Place. My mother did most of her food shopping there before Waldbaum's opened a block closer to our house.

 

In Bobby in Naziland, I discuss two books about Nazis that influenced my own writing. One was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer. The other was Sophie's Choice, by William Styron, which was set in postwar Flatbush, with many of the book's locations only a block or two from where I lived.

 

This blog, in part, is a photographic addendum to Bobby in Naziland. My intention has been to add greater detail about any number of people, places, and things that I touched on in the book. In this Season of the Plague, I've found that losing myself in mid-20th-century Flatbush, despite some of the darkness of that time, has been especially pleasurable.

 

This week, I return to the "sawdust-strewn aisles of the A&P," which Styron and I both wrote about. And I wonder if any stores, at least in New York City, still strew sawdust on the floor to absorb moisture. At a time when the very notion of walking into a supermarket can be terrifying, the idea of floors covered in sawdust seems so, to say the least, unsanitary.

 

The above photograph of the A&P on Church Avenue, taken in 1940, is from the New York City Municipal Archives. You can see the other half of the storefront here. (The same car appears in both shots.) Though The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company ceased to exist after filing for bankruptcy, in 2015, the current Google maps shot shows the store that was once the A&P remains a supermarket, though its aisles, I'd imagine, are sawdust free.

 

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Do It With Lewyt

 

I found this ad, circa 1950, several years ago when I was looking for memory-jogging photos of things I was writing about in Bobby in Naziland.

 

I didn't remember the vacuum's brand name. So I Googled "1950s vacuum cleaners" and scrolled through several hundred images of Hoovers, Electroluxes, and GEs. Finally, there it was, unmistakable, though I hadn't laid eyes on it in more than 55 years: my mother's Lewyt (pronounced loo-it) vacuum cleaner.

 

They had a catchy slogan, too, "Do it with Lewyt," and the model shown in the ad was the best-selling vacuum of its time. But the name didn't ring a bell. Alexander Lewyt, the founder, who's now remembered for predicting that nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners would be a reality by 1965, sold the company to the Budd corporation in 1959, and they changed the name to Budd vacuums, which still exists.

 

Despite its Good Housekeeping seal of approval, the above ad is deceptive. What I remember about the vacuum is the horrible noise it made, especially when my mother used the even noisier attachment shown in the photo. Every time she took her Lewyt out of the closet, which she did at least once a week, I ran to my room to hide from the noise. The Lewyt was the first machine I learned to hate and fear. Yet when I saw it in the ad, I was overcome with a rush of nostalgia.

 

That unsuspecting kid in the photo could have been me.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Last Event Before the Apocalypse II: The Numbers on Their Arms

 

It's just the three of us here in our cozy, quiet apartment—me, my wife, our cat. Above the empty streets of Manhattan Island, one week melts into the next. 

 

We're in a perpetual state of waiting for supplies. When's the next food delivery? Did we order milk? Will the masks ever arrive?

 

Mary Lyn is strumming her guitar, working on a new plague-inspired song, "I Can't Touch You." I'm lost in a nostalgic reverie of pre-plague life, still looking through the video she shot February 1 at my Bobby in Naziland presentation at Books & Books, in Coral Gables. In my previous post, I described that reading, hyperbolically, as the "Last Event Before the Apocalypse."

 

The hyperbolic "Apocalypse" is planet Earth on lockdown during these early months of the coronavirus pandemic. Here then is another short video clip from the Q&A portion of that Books & Books event, in which I answer the question, "Was anybody in your family in a concentration camp during the war?"

 

The short answer is "No." But my more elaborate response, which should serve as a reminder that once upon a time, things were even more horrible than they are now, includes the following information:

 

·        My father liberated a concentration camp.

·        The first time I saw an Auschwitz number was on the forearm of a woman who worked in a bakery on Church Avenue in Flatbush.

·        Those tattoos were a common sight in the neighborhood.

·        I knew what Auschwitz was for as long as I understood language.

 

I provide even more detail on all the above throughout Bobby in Naziland, which I'd suggest is a book worth reading as we shelter in place. There are, after all, a lot of hours to fill, and reading books is a good way to distract yourself while waiting for armies of essential workers to deliver your food and other necessary supplies. At 7 P.M., the hour of the vuvuzela, we will salute them and all the others who are doing their best in impossible circumstance to keep us alive.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Last Event Before the Apocalypse

 

A hard rain was falling in Miami the night I read from Bobby in Naziland at Books & Books in Coral Gables. It was Saturday, February 1, and the town, overrun with fans of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, was in the mood for football, not literature. The Super Bowl was the next day, up the road in Hard Rock Stadium, and a couple of hours before I showed up at Miami's greatest bookstore, Jerry Rice, the 49ers' Hall of Fame wide receiver, had presented his book, America's Game. Such was the competition.

 

Compared to events I'd done in New York, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, the turnout for my event was modest. But many in the crowd were originally from New York, including two people I hadn't seen since high school, one of whom, Lee Klein, now a Miami chef and food writer, was in the midst of finishing his own novel. So the enthusiasm level for my tale of Flatbush was running high.

 

To set the moment in a historical perspective, the disastrous Iowa caucus would take place in two days. And yes, I was aware that something called the coronavirus had infected tens of thousands of people in China and that New York City had just reported its first case. But these things were not foremost in my mind.

 

After the reading, I was looking forward to a good dinner and then enjoying a couple of vacation days in Miami Beach with my wife before returning to New York to begin planning the European leg of my book tour. London, Paris, and Madrid awaited.

 

Well, forget about that. Along with my public and social life, any thoughts of a European tour have been cancelled. And as I look back at the Books & Books event from my perch here, above the deserted streets of downtown Manhattan, it now seems like that night in Coral Gables was the final moment of what passed for normalcy in Trump America, a time of ignorant bliss before the onset of the Apocalypse and the Season of the Plague.

 

Still, there is a certain nostalgic pleasure in looking back at pre-plague life. So, in the above video clip from the Q&A portion of that last presentation, which I can now file under ancient history, I answer two questions about Bobby in Naziland:

 

How did your father end up with a candy store instead of a butcher shop?

 

Were there counters and stools and teenagers hanging out in the candy store after school?

 

Someday in the not-too-distant future, perhaps I'll again be able to go out in public and read from my books and answer more questions about them. In the meantime, like the rest of humanity, I'll just keep sheltering in place. 'Cause there's not much else to do here except work on another book and maybe some laundry.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you'll hopefully be able to buy it again someday soon.

 

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Against the Wall, Circa 1956

 

Even when she was young, my mother, Eleanor Rosen, a major character in Bobby in Naziland, didn't like being photographed. So I don't have many photographs of her. But I have this one, probably taken in the early winter of 1956. I was 4½, she was 30, and her nail polish was red. You may have seen this photo several years ago when it ran with an interview published on Huffpost. It's one of the few photos from that era I have in my possession.

 

The wall we're posing in front of is on East 17th Street, near Church Avenue, down the block from where we lived and around the corner from my father's candy store. (Here's a 1940s municipal archives shot of the wall as seen from the corner of Church Avenue, and here's a recent Google-maps shot; rotate it to the left to see the wall.)

 

I don't know why we're posing there or who took the photo, but it's a wall I knew well. It's one of the walls where we used to play Chinese handball and when we were older, regular handball.

 

My expression, too, seems familiar—certainly more familiar than my expression in some of the photos that show me smiling that I ran in earlier blog posts. I didn't like being photographed, either, because it generally involved my mother yelling at me to "Smile naturally!"

 

This, then, is my more natural expression—more or less that of a hostage under duress. As I said in the book, "My mother, in particular, doled out her affections—the occasional hug and kiss, or the sentence spoken in a pleasant and non-accusatory tone—only on those rare days when I obeyed her without question or brought home sterling marks on my report card. And whatever emotion I felt in return was probably more akin to Stockholm syndrome than love, and was grounded in the fear that if my parents didn't stop smoking cigarettes, then I'd end up an orphan like the Rosenberg kids."

 

These days I get along well with my mother, who now resides in an assisted-living facility in West Palm Beach. Though she's not read Bobby in Naziland—eye problems—she's proud of having taken the cover photo.

 

Click on the links below to see other Flatbush photos from the Bobby in Naziland era.

Prospect Park, 1959.

East 17th Street and Caton Avenue, circa 1954.

Church Avenue, 1956.

East 17th Street, April 1955.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Smiling Naturally: Parkside Avenue, 1962

 

There's a scene in Bobby in Naziland that describes how my mother took the photo that many decades later ended up on the book's cover. "Smile naturally!" she yelled at me in exasperation as she aimed the camera. "You always photograph horribly!"

 

I was four years old.

 

In the above photo, taken in March 1962, I was nine and a half—old enough that I can now see the first hints of the adult I turned into. I also seem to finally have learned to smile naturally—at least this once.

 

What I'm doing at mid-afternoon (judging by the shadow), posing for a picture at the edge of Prospect Park, across the street from 121 Parkside Avenue, between Parade Place and St. Paul's Place (here's the 1940 tax photo of the street and here's a recent shot from Google maps), I've no idea. Nor do I know why I'm wearing my gray blazer and dress pants rather than "dungarees," or why I'm crouching rather than standing up. My best guess is that it's the weekend and I was on my way to a family gathering that required me to wear nice clothes. The only other time I got dressed up was for Friday assembly at school, but if that had been where I was coming from, I'd have been wearing a white shirt and tie, and it would have been later in the afternoon.

 

The real mystery of the photo is how I'd managed to make myself smile naturally. Perhaps it was my innate method-acting abilities. I don't remember this as an especially happy time—just another ordinary school year in early-1960s Flatbush. I was in fourth grade, and to set the photo in a historical context, the previous month, as I describe in Bobby in Naziland, John Glenn had become the first American astronaut to orbit the earth; I'd stayed home from school to watch it on TV.

 

But I doubt that's what I was thinking about here. Somehow, I was able to move the correct facial muscles, and my mother clicked the shutter at just the right moment, thereby creating the illusion of long-ago happiness.

 

You can see other Flatbush photos from the Bobby in Naziland era here, here, here, and here. There will be more.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Prospect Park, 1959

 

The above photo was taken in the autumn of 1959 by the lake in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, near Parkside Avenue, behind the Peristyle, or Greek Shelter, as it's more commonly known. I'm 7 years old and my father, Irwin Rosen, is 36. The excerpt from Bobby in Naziland in the caption comes from a scene in chapter one, where a gang of teenagers steals my new fishing rod. That took place two years later, in the summer of 1961.

 

The fishing pole I'm holding in the photo is a toy; the one I'd receive for my birthday was real. The fishing spot I describe in the book is the peninsula jutting out in the background.

 

I didn't have this photo when I was writing Bobby in Naziland. I wish I had. There are a lot of memory-jogging things going on here that you can see better if you enlarge it. On the collar of my favorite jacket (I'd forgotten about the jacket) there are two disks, authentic U.S. Army pins. One shows two crossed rifles, the infantry symbol; the other says "U.S." My uncle gave me the pins, too, as well as a pair of captain's bars that I wore on the shoulders of this jacket, though you can't see them here. Maybe he hadn't given them to me yet.

 

My uncle was a private in the peacetime army, happily doing his time between Korea and Vietnam. He was stationed in Germany, at the same time as Elvis, though not in the same unit. Before being shipped overseas, he was posted at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, and would often come to visit when he had a weekend pass. He'd always bring me some kind of trinket that he'd picked up in the PX, like those pins that I loved—because he knew I was fascinated by everything having to do with the military. (I discuss this in the book.)

 

In the "Fragments of My Father" chapter, I write that my father wore "heavy black work boots" in his candy store. This is incorrect. He wore the black ripple-sole shoes he's wearing in the photo. If you look closely you can see the ripple soles.

 

The memory might be unreliable but these photos aren't.

 

You can see other photos from the lost world of Flatbush here, here, and here. There will be more.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Where Are the Dogs of Yesteryear?

 

We all know where the dogs of yesteryear have gone, and if this particular beagle—yes, I remember him, though not his name, his human, or the bystanding girl—is still walking the earth, he'd be about 330 dog-years old now.

 

The year is 1954 or early 1955, and I appear to be about 2½ years old. This photo was taken, probably by my mother, on East 17th Street near Caton Avenue, down the block from where we used to live, in Flatbush. Though I didn't have a dog, I was crazy about the neighborhood dogs and loved to pet them, as I'm happily doing here.

 

To see photos of this corner, taken from different angles, around 1940, click here and here.

 

Like the other photos I've been posting the past few weeks, here and here, all of them recently unearthed in my brother's basement, this one shows what Brooklyn (and I) looked like during the period that Bobby in Naziland takes place.

 

I will post more.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Church Avenue, 1956

 

Here's another photo from a recently unearthed series of photos that show what Brooklyn, Flatbush, members of my family, and I looked like during the period that Bobby in Naziland takes place.

 

In this photo, taken in 1956 or early 1957, I'm about four years old. The cars all appear to be early 1950s models; the one where you can see the grille and license plate is probably a 1952 Oldsmobile. I don't know who took the picture. It could have been my mother, the official family photographer, or it could have been our downstairs neighbor Fred, the owner of the dog, Boxer. That's my father, Irwin Rosen, 33 or 34 at the time, standing behind me.

 

The location is Church Avenue, between East 17th and East 18th Streets. (East 18th Street is in the background.) One of the main settings of Bobby in Naziland, my father's candy store, which he opened in 1948, is down the block, to the left, directly across the street from World Liquors, which in a few years would become Deal Town. Above the liquor store, the sign obscured, is a bowling alley and pool hall. I don't remember Ray's or Bob's. (Click here and here to see photos of this stretch of Church Avenue, taken from different angles, in 1940.)

 

My father and I are standing in front of N.E. Tell's bakery, which isn't visible. It was around this time that I first saw the Auschwitz tattoo on the forearm of a woman who worked in Tell's. I describe that moment in a key scene in the book.

 

I'll post more photos in the coming weeks.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Flatbush, April 1955

 

The above photo is one of several an editor solicited for a story about Bobby in Naziland that was supposed to run in a local Brooklyn newspaper. The story was never published, so I'm going to run the photos here, as illustrations of what Flatbush—and I—looked like during the period the book covers, the 1950s through the mid-1960s.

 

In this shot, labeled "April 1955," I'm not quite three years old. About one mile away, the Dodgers will soon begin their third from last season in Ebbets Field.

 

My mother, Eleanor Rosen, took the photo in front of the building adjacent to where we used to live, on East 17th Street. A character in the book, whom I call "Jeffrey Abromovitz," lived there. As I describe in the first chapter, this is the sidewalk I would lick 61 times—once for each home run Roger Maris hit in 1961—in exchange for Abromovitz's rare Maris baseball card.

 

You can watch a video of Abromovitz's sister, Susan Barrett, reading this passage here.

 

Look for more photos in future blog posts.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Suzi From the Block: The Sequel

 

Since Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush was published, I've reconnected with many people from my past, some of whom I hadn't seen in 50 years. Susan Barrett, who's appeared on such TV shows as 30 Rock, Shades of Blue, and Law & Order, is one of those people. She was the only actor captured live on video at "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14 New York launch event for Bobby in Naziland. You can see that performance here.

 

In the above video, shot in my apartment, Susan reprises her Beaver Street performance and tells the story of our first, serendipitous meeting. She then reads from the opening chapter of Bobby in Naziland, "The Goyim and the Jews," in which her brother is a character.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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The Part About Miami

According to The New York Times, Books & Books, in Coral Gables, Florida, is "the indie bookseller who put literary Miami on the map." Over the decades, the store, which opened in 1982, has hosted readings by such luminaries as Isaac Bashevis Singer, James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson, and Toni Morrison.

 

At 7 P.M. Saturday, February 1, it will be my great pleasure to appear at Books & Books. I'll be reading from my new memoir, Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush, which is set in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s—a place where World War II and the ghost of the Dodgers hovered like a mass hallucination.

 

The above video, The Part About Miami, is a preview of one of the three (or, time permitting, four) sections of Bobby in Naziland that I'll be reading.

 

I hope you can join me in Coral Gables for my last U.S. event before moving on to European horizons in the coming months.

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Click here for six more videos of actors reading from Bobby in Naziland.

 

Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Books & Videobooks

With my February 1 reading at Books & Books, the venerable literary mecca in Coral Gables, Florida, imminent, I've assembled what amounts to a videobook of excerpts from Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush. I hope the uninitiated will avail themselves of this opportunity to get acquainted with the book.

 

Below you'll find six videos of the actors (and myself) who read from Bobby in Naziland at the December New York launch event, "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose. They are, in order of appearance, Susan Barrett, Robert Rosen, Deametrice Eyster, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and Joe Gioco.

 

Barrett was recorded live at the Killarney Rose. The other videos are "studio" takes of the excerpts we read at the event.

 

I hope you like what you hear and that you can come to Books & Books on February 1, at 7 P.M., to hear me read live and in person. This is my last scheduled event in the U.S. before moving on to European horizons in the late winter or early spring.

 

Suzi From the Block: From Chapter 1, "The Goyim and the Jews"

Bobby From the Block: From Chapter 3, "Heil Irwin!"

Deametrice From the Hood: From Chapter 11, "Fragments of My Father"

Byron From the Farm: From Chapter 13, "Cruel Affections"

Laralu From the Living Room: From Chapter 14, "In America..."

Joe From the TV: From Chapter 15, "The Flatbush Diet"

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Joe From the TV

Joe Gioco, whom you've seen on TV in such shows as Gotham, Escape at Dannemora, and Mr. Robot, is one of the many actors who read from Bobby in Naziland at the New York launch event, "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose, in December. He then agreed to reprise his performance on camera, in my apartment—in an effort to entice people to come to my next event, February 1, 7 P.M., at Books & Books, in Coral Gables, Florida.

 

His reading—all of Chapter 15, "The Flatbush Diet"—was perhaps the most challenging. For one thing, it was the longest reading. Having performed it myself, twice, at other events, I can say with assurance that it's a bit of a tongue-twister—and I wrote it.

 

As Joe explains in the above video, he's the first goy to attempt to read it out loud and in public, which means he didn't know how to pronounce a number of the foods mentioned in the chapter, like gribenes, matzoh brei, and pupick, a Yiddish word for a chicken's bellybutton.

 

But Joe is a living embodiment of the old saying, "There are no small parts, only small actors." Check out his performance as Judge Leo Tirone in Showtime's City on the Hill. In the episode "If Only the Fool Would Persist in His Folly," watch what he does with three words: Him… her… it?

 

It should come as no surprise, then, that Joe handled "The Flatbush Diet" like the professional he is. See for yourself in the video. It might be enough to make you want to come to Florida to hear me read, or at least buy the book, if you haven't already.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Laralu From the Living Room

As I prepare for my February 1 Bobby in Naziland event at the venerable Books & Books, in Coral Gables, Florida, I've been learning from the actors I've been filming as they read select passages from my memoir. These "studio" readings are a reprise of their performances at the New York launch event "Bobby on Beaver Street," at the Killarney Rose last month.

 

This week, the lovely and talented Laralu Smith takes her turn before the camera. Best known for her work on stage, Laralu has appeared in NYC and regional productions of Up the Rabbit Hole (TNC), Major Barbara (Helluva Theater), A Bright Room Called Day (The Connelly), The Practice Child (Fringe NYC), Whisper (INTAR), Close Ties (Long Wharf), and Tartuffe (Capital Rep). She's also a regular performer with the Upright Citizen's Brigade Diversity Jam.

 

At an earlier Killarney Rose literary event, "Bloomsday on Beaver Street," Laralu read from the Molly Bloom section of James Joyce's Ulysses. That, I thought, well qualified her to read about another literary heroine—my mother, Eleanor Rosen.

 

In the above video, shot in my current living room, Laralu reads an excerpt from Chapter 14 of Bobby in Naziland, "In America...," part of which is set in another living room, in my Brooklyn household of long ago.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Byron From the Farm

Byron Nilsson, a Renaissance man who resides with his family on Jollity Farm, in upstate New York, is a writer, actor, musician, beekeeper, gourmet chef, and my personal source of tech support for all things electronic.

 

I met him 25 years ago when I was editing a number of "adult" publications and needed a skilled writer to guide my readers to the burgeoning promised land of quality online erotica. Boy, was he ever the right man for the job!

 

Byron's experience contributing to the Swank magazine group was the inspiration for his play Mr. Sensitivity, performed at the 2009 New York Fringe Festival.

 

He was also the MC for the three literary events I've held at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, in New York City. At the most recent one, "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14, 2019, launch of Bobby in Naziland, Byron read the opening of Chapter 13, "Cruel Affections." In the above video, Byron, from his CD-lined Jollity Farm office, reprises his reading.

 

The next Bobby in Naziland event is 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida. Yes, Super Bowl LIV is the next day, up the road at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami Gardens. If you're in the area and looking for an alternative to a pre-Super Bowl party, please stop by. There's quite a bit of football in the book, and I'll talk about it if you insist.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Deametrice From the Hood

Russell Baker sat in a club chair in a stuffy, wood-paneled den with a fireplace as he eruditely introduced episodes of Masterpiece Theatre. A similar setting—club chair and fireplace, anyway—seemed appropriate for my West Village neighbor Deametrice Eyster's reading from "Fragments of My Father," Chapter 11 of Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush. It's the same section that Eyster, a writer of poetry and short stories, read before a live audience at the "Bobby on Beaver Street" event in mid-December.

 

Here in Eyster's cozy apartment—far brighter than Baker's dim redoubt—she spins the tale of how my father, "a true believer in free enterprise," set out to become the "anal-lube king of South Florida."

 

Though you'd never hear such a story on Masterpiece Theatre, some readers of Bobby in Naziland have called the book "a masterpiece" in its own right. And for that I thank them.

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The next Bobby in Naziland event is at 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

 

Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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Bobby From the Block

Since my memoir Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush was published in September, I've done a number of readings (with more to come) at bookstores, a temple, and at private events. Most of these readings were followed by Q&A sessions, and one question that people have asked at almost every event is: Why that title?

 

A cousin who'd read the book and then invited me to speak to her book club told me, "I love the book but I hate the title. If I were your publisher, I'd make you change it."

 

I've seen similar sentiments posted online. One person said a generic title, like A Jewish Childhood, would have been better.

 

I've lived with Bobby in Naziland for years and the title stuck—because it's a true and accurate title, and I like the allusion to Alice in Wonderland. To me, it's the only possible title.

 

In the above video, I read the beginning of Chapter 3, "Heil Irwin!" It's the passage I read last week, at the event "Bobby on Beaver Street." It's one of the passages I will read February 1, 2020, at Books & Books, in Coral Gables. And it's one of the many passages that should clarify why I chose Bobby in Naziland as the title.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

The next Bobby in Naziland event is 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books and Books in Miami.

 

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Suzi From the Block

It was somewhere between stand-up comedy and Shakespearean soliloquy. The cast, in alphabetical order, included Susan Barrett, Deametrice Eyster, Joe Gioco, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Byron Nilsson, and Laralu Smith.

 

The event was "Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14 New York City launch of my memoir Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush, at the Killarney Rose. 

 

Even though I spent seven years living (and dying) with the material as I wrote the book, practically memorizing parts of it, and going over every word and punctuation mark more times than I can count with a perfectionist editor and her microscope, the actors somehow made Bobby in Naziland sound fresh to my own ears. What a treat it was to watch such talented people bring to life the lost world of mid-20th-century Brooklyn!

 

The audience seemed so caught up in what they were witnessing, most of them put aside their 21st-century technology and simply watched, like people used to do in the 20th century. Consequently, only one actor, Susan Barrett, was recorded on video. But that video says it all, and you can watch it, above.

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The next Bobby in Naziland event: 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books & Books in Miami.

 

Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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In the Realm of "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

 

"Bobby on Beaver Street," the December 14 New York City launch event for Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush, at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street, is three days away.

 

Published in September, the book has appeared on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch bestseller list and has been assessed by critics. Below is some of what they've had to say. (Earlier reviews and interviews ran on Huffpost, The Jewish Voice, BK Reader, The MacWire, The Almanac of Menlo Park, and NF Reads.)

***

"Mid 20th Century Flatbush as seen through the eyes of a Jewish boy whose bigoted dad liberated a Nazi death camp. Bobby in Naziland is a darkly funny coming of age story that many people can appreciate now, of all times." —Lesley Abravanel of the Miami Herald on Twitter

 

"The writing is fluid and poetic. I loved this book. It was hard to put down." —Jen Senko, filmmaker, The Brainwashing of My Dad

 

"The style and voice – matter-of-fact, witty – deliver [Rosen's] portrait of life growing up in Flatbush with great charm. He reminded me of Philip Roth in Portnoy's Complaint or J D Salinger and Catcher in the Rye." —Erotic Review

 

"Robert's writing is intoxicating." —Barbara Bradman

 

"I think of [Bobby in Naziland] as being in the realm of Brighton Beach Memoirs, but more inner-referenced, more emotional, and with characters who are more believable than Neil Simon's. I love this book." —Nunzio Adorato

 

"Flatbush is forever part of who Robert Rosen is." —The Jewish Advocate of Boston

 

"Childhood is a kind of fantastic wilderness that you gratefully leave behind forever, and so it goes (mostly) untold, unstudied. That a book like Bobby in Naziland does do some of the telling and studying I think is admirable. Nothing is prettified and the detail is thick.... Bobby in Naziland makes a real, if belated, contribution to postwar Jewish-American literature." —Mad Shopper

***

Please do stop by the Killarney Rose at 7 P.M., Saturday, December 14, and listen to some very talented actors, writers, and musicians, including Susan Barrett, Deametrice Eyster, Joe Gioco, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and myself read from Bobby in Naziland. Find out why critics (for the most part) have turned thumbs up for Bobby.

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The next Bobby in Naziland event is 7 P.M., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at Books and Books in Miami.

 

Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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A Perfect, Dimly Lighted Place

 

One afternoon in the autumn of 2006, after working on a book for several hours, I closed my laptop and went out for a 5.3-mile walk—10,000 steps. Heading downtown from Soho, I had no destination in mind.

 

Walking, I found, was like meditation—it cleared my head and relaxed me. Also, as often happened on these walks, the solution to whatever writing problem I'd been struggling with would pop into my head. I always carried pen and paper.

 

On that late afternoon in early October, I was thinking that I needed a catchier title for my new book. The working title, "A History of Modern Pornography," sounded too academic. For the five years that I'd been writing it, I'd failed to come up with a suitable title that encompassed all of what the book was about: an examination through a pornographic lens of late-20th-century capitalism and politics.

 

Wandering through a warren of narrow, twisting streets near the Battery, lost in the reverie of a daydream, I suddenly stopped and glanced up at the street sign.

 

I was on the corner of Beaver and Broad.

 

Oh my God, I thought, that's it! That's the title of my book: Beaver Street! It's perfect. The street not only intersects with Wall Street, the beating heart of the capitalist system, but beaver (as I once explained to an inquisitive French woman) is commonly used American slang for female genitalia.

 

I also knew that I had to have my book party on Beaver Street. So I walked the length of the street, from Pearl to Broadway, searching for an appropriate venue. The only place that seemed like a possibility was the Killarney Rose, a bar at 80 Beaver Street. I walked in and discovered the upstairs lounge, which had the cozy feel of a private club. It was an ideal place for a book party.

 

All I had to do was finish writing Beaver Street and get it published. That took six more years. But on June 16, 2012, I did, indeed, have the launch party in the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose. And thus was born "Bloomsday on Beaver Street," a well-attended event celebrating literary books that had been branded pornography, like James Joyce's Ulysses and, of course, Beaver Street. The event went so well, we did it again the following year.

 

This year, at 7 P.M., Saturday, December 14, I and a talented troupe of professional actors, musicians, and writers will return to the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose to celebrate the publication of my new memoir, Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush.

 

The cast, which includes Susan Barrett, Deametrice Eyster, Joe Gioco, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and me, will read select passages from the book. I hope you can join us for a night of Bobby on Beaver Street. The event is free and you can find the invitation here.

 

MC Byron Nilsson delivers the opening monologue at Bloomsday on Beaver Street, June 16, 2012.

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Bobby in Naziland is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you really should buy it.

 

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