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Far From Flatbush

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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

 

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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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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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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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my still-embryonic Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my still-embryonic Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my recently launched Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my recently launched Instagram.

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my recently launched Instagram.

 

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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.)

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"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

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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.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my recently launched Instagram.

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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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Bobby Goes to Bay Ridge, Returns to Beaver Street

 

They came to The BookMark Shoppe, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on the night of November 9, by subway, automobile, bicycle, and foot to hear me read from Bobby in Naziland and answer questions about the book. It was the first time a bookstore within the five boroughs of New York City had held an event for one of my books. Among the audience were people I hadn't seen since high school and college; former Flatbushians; current Flatbushians; a fellow Headpress author; and a couple of complete strangers.

 

It was also the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass—the night Nazi leaders unleashed a series of pogroms against the Jewish population in Germany, the first act of what would become the Final Solution.

 

And though the Q&A that followed the reading inevitably turned to the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, and the traumatic aftereffects that World War II had on America in the 1950s, that night I'd chosen not to read about Nazis. Instead, I read from a chapter titled "The Great Candy-Store Tragedy," which is about my father's candy store on Church Avenue but also about the Brooklyn Dodgers, many of whom had lived nearby the bookstore.

 

The night was also a prelude to one more local event: "Bobby on Beaver Street," which will be held Saturday, December 14, at 7 P.M. in the upstairs lounge of the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street in downtown Manhattan. (The address is actually 127 Pearl Street, but there's also an entrance on Beaver Street.)

 

Readers of this blog will recall the Killarney Rose as the setting of the two "Bloomsday on Beaver Street" events I held on June 16, 2012 and 2013. The first event was the New York launch of my previous book, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography; the second event was a celebration of literary books that had been branded pornography, like Ulysses, by James Joyce (which takes place on June 16, 1904), and yes, Beaver Street.

 

"Bobby on Beaver Street" will feature actors such as Susan Barrett, Byron Nilsson, Joe Gioco, and Laralu Smith reading select passages from Bobby in Naziland. Barrett, who has appeared in such shows as 30 Rock, grew up next door to me and is intimately familiar with the material she will read. Nilsson will be returning as the Beaver Street MC. Gioco is currently appearing in as Judge Leo Tirone in Showtime's City on a Hill. And Smith's searing reading from the Molly Bloom section of Ulysses was a highlight of Bloomsday 2013.

 

The event is free. Please stay tuned for more details.

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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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Ghosts of the Nazis Were Everywhere

 

It was the first time since my bar mitzvah that I'd stood before people in a synagogue and spoken to them. The occasion: an October 27 gathering of the Temple Sinai Book Club, in Dresher, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. Members of the club, and others who'd heard about the event, came to hear me read from my memoir Bobby in Naziland and to ask questions about it.

 

My cousin Susan Klausner-Bratt loved the book—she knew a number of the "characters"—and pitched it to club president Tobey Grand, who agreed to add Bobby in Naziland to the fall reading list.

 

But Susan and Tobey both had issues with the title. Susan had called me after reading it and said, "I hate the title. If I were your publisher, I'd make you change it." Tobey told me that she almost didn't read the book because of the title. She thought it was going to be a depressing Holocaust memoir and asked if there'd been any discussions with the publisher about changing it.

 

There were not, I said.

 

As I told the book club, I lived with the title for several years, and it stuck—because it's a true title; it's what the book's about. Bobby in Naziland is a memoir about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s, surrounded by Holocaust survivors and World War II vets who fought the Nazis. I describe Flatbush as a place where "the war lingered like a mass hallucination." Ghosts of the Nazis were everywhere. The book describes in visceral detail how Flatbush was a neighborhood suffering from an epidemic of what was not yet called post-traumatic stress disorder, and how this physically and emotionally violent environment could affect a child.

 

And though the Holocaust of course plays a major role, Bobby in Naziland is really a book about America in the aftermath of the war, with baseball a major theme. Tobey, a Philadelphia Phillies fan, was delighted by what I'd written about the final days of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the invincible New York Yankees of the early 1960s. "The Dodgers betrayed Brooklyn!" she said. "And Mickey Mantle was like a movie star!"

 

Since Bobby in Naziland is also about food and candy stores—and since Susan and Tobey had assembled a celebratory candy store in the temple lounge, where egg creams were served—I read "The Flatbush Diet" chapter and a few paragraphs from "The Great Candy-Store Tragedy," which explains how to make perfect egg creams.

 

A surprising number of people in the audience had once lived in Brooklyn. One woman told a story about how her father had owned a candy store in Brighton Beach. My story, I said, could have been her story, and her Brighton Beach memories again reminded me that Bobby in Naziland's themes are universal and that Flatbush was a microcosm of post-war America. (Yet, as I've also heard at this and other readings, people living on a different street a few blocks from where I grew up could have had a completely different experience.)

 

One man, Max Levine, was also originally from Brighton Beach, the son of Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivors from Poland. His father is one of the main characters in the documentary The Boys of 2nd Street Park, about a group of men who'd grown up together in Brighton Beach in the 1960s. Max talked about how American-born Jews looked down upon the Yiddish-speaking refugees and survivors, calling them "greenhorns."

 

Most of the discussion, on what happened to be the first anniversary of the massacre in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue, was about the Holocaust, and one theme that emerged was how Holocaust survivors rarely spoke of their experiences, but the next generation, my generation, needed to find out everything. Tobey mentioned that she didn't even know about the Holocaust until she read about it in a book.

 

"Were you afraid that the world was out to get you?" somebody asked.

 

"No," I said, "I was only afraid my neighbors were out to get me"—referring to how the kids were always beating each other up.

 

Another Jewish writer, Philip Roth, once said, "It's a curse to have a writer born in the family." I suppose that can be true. But in the case of Bobby in Naziland, as my readings have demonstrated, the book has been bringing people together, Jew and goyim alike. That, I think, is a blessing.

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The next Bobby in Naziland event is Saturday, November 9, at 5 PM, in The BookMark Shoppe in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

 

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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Next Stop, Philadelphia… But First, a Word About St. Louis

 

If you're into Brooklyn, candy stores, and literature, the place to be Sunday, October 27, at 10 AM, is Temple Sinai in Dresher, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. In celebration of Bobby in Naziland and my father's candy store, which plays a big part in the memoir, the temple book club is building a candy store on site. They will be serving egg creams and I will be reading from and signing copies of the book. The event is free and all are welcome. To attend, please RSVP by October 22 to Tobey Grand, tgrand10290@gmail.com.

 

With any luck, the event will go as well as last Wednesday's reading at Subterranean Books, in St. Louis, where, for an enthusiastic SRO crowd, I read from two chapters of Bobby in Naziland, "The Goyim and the Jews" and "Something Different Happened." Though the book, in many ways, is the best published representation of what you might call my "natural voice," parts of it are not easy to read out loud in front of people, though I didn't realize this until I started preparing for the reading.

 

Primarily, it has to do with the subject matter and the way it's presented—the thoughts and emotions of a meshuggener child filtered through an adult consciousness. The book's narrator, in describing his childhood experiences, reverts back to that childhood.

 

As I explained at Subterranean, some of the passages I'd first considered reading were just too raw. I wouldn't have been comfortable reading them in front of an audience. For example, I thought I might read from chapter two, "Naziland," part of which describes the mutilated Auschwitz survivors I saw in the locker room at a Brooklyn beach club a friend had taken me to when I was 10 years old. But it was too painful, I decided. Another part I chose not to read was a graphic depiction of racism—it was too wrenching and emotional.

 

Instead, I read (or should I say "gossiped"?) about my Brooklyn neighbors from six decades ago, and I read granular descriptions of the Flatbush streets—what they looked like, sounded like, felt like, and smelled like. I also read a scene that took place February 10, 1964, 79 days after the Kennedy assassination and the day after the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show—the moment when the 1960s began for me. The Q&A that followed was lively and served as another reminder that the themes I explored in Bobby in Naziland are universal.

 

Earlier that week in St. Louis, at a private gathering, I read "The Flatbush Diet," which I described as one of the "lighter and more Jewish chapters." The party was thrown by an old friend from Flatbush, whom I'd lost touch with in 1972, soon after he'd transferred to an out-of-town college. I mostly remembered Ernest Abramson from our super-competitive pickup football games. In the ensuing years, he'd become a prosperous dentist who lived in a beautiful, art-filled home in the St. Louis suburbs.

 

It was mind-blowing when he contacted me. He happened to see the book on Amazon, and noticed my name, but thought that there were thousands of Robert Rosens (which there are). Then he saw my picture and realized it was me. He read Bobby in Naziland and it blew his mind. "It was like reading my biography," he said.

 

The party he and his wife, Ellen, threw was fantastic—a gathering of the local Jewish community, and a feast of many of the foods I wrote about, including chopped liver and numerous sweets that my father used to sell in his candy store.

 

The dialogue that followed the reading was exactly the kind of provocative conversation I'd hoped the book would spark—a discussion of the newly inflamed bigotry throughout the world and the fact that the generation that experienced the Holocaust and fought in World War II is dying out and that their stories must never be forgotten.

 

These events made me feel that Bobby in Naziland is a book that's bringing people together. I hope this will continue in Philadelphia and beyond.

________

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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Meet Me in St. Louis

 

The first official event of the Bobby in Naziland reading tour, 2019-20, will take place at Subterranean Books, in St. Louis, on Wednesday, October 16, at 7 PM. I'll be reading from chapter one, "The Goyim and the Jews," which sets the scene for the book and gives the reader a sense of what it was like to be in Flatbush in the 1950s and 60s, when a significant portion of the population of this provincial Brooklyn neighborhood was comprised of Holocaust survivors and World War II vets who'd fought the Nazis.

 

I'll then be taking questions, and one question I expect (because many people have already asked me) is: Why that title?

 

It's a good question, and I can tell you this: I lived with that title for years, and it stuck—because it's an accurate title; it's what the book's about. Because of who my neighbors were, Flatbush was a place where the war lingered like a mass hallucination. Ghosts of the Nazis were everywhere.

 

As you may have guessed, the title is also a reference to Alice in Wonderland. As you may not have guessed, the subtitle, A Tale of Flatbush, is a reference to the subtitle of Melville's Bartleby the Scrivner: A Story of Wall Street.

 

If there's still time after the questions, for my encore I'll read part of the Beatles section, from chapter 18, "Something Different Happened."

 

I'm very much looking forward to returning to St. Louis, which I make a point of doing when I have a new book out. When I was there in 2012, after the publication of Beaver Street, I did three events, in Shameless Grounds, Left Bank Books, and the late, lamented Apop.

 

Wednesday, at Subterranean, I hope to see some familiar faces.

 

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I'll be reading and signing Bobby in Naziland at Temple Sinai, in Dresher, PA, Sunday, October 27, 10 AM. To attend, please RSVP by Oct. 22 to Tobey Grand, tgrand10290@gmail.com. The event is free, all are welcome, and, I'm told, there will be a candy store and egg creams. Seriously.

________

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 buy it if you can.

 

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Time Stands Still

 

I was standing in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery, in early August, talking to Liena Zagare, publisher and editor of the Bklyner newspaper. We were in the midst of a walking tour of some of the Flatbush sites I wrote about in Bobby in Naziland, and the cemetery was high on the list.

 

"I was a gloomy kid," I told her, as I stared at one of those weathered and now almost unreadable tombstones, barely able to make out the inscribed dates. The person whose bones now lay beneath my feet appeared to have been born in the final years of the 18th century and to have died in the opening years of the 19th—a child.

 

It was, I'm sure, one of the many tombstones I brooded over when I was a kid and I'd come to the cemetery on one of my solitary Flatbush walking tours, looking for something interesting to fill my day. I was attracted to cemeteries because I was obsessed with death. In my own family, as I explain in the book, death was more taboo than sex, something only to be spoken of in the abstract and never to be spoken of when it was real and personal.

 

I also found the cemetery serene, like my own private park. Nobody else was ever there—probably because the cemetery entrance is hidden, on a nearby dead-end street. And despite my obsessive thoughts about dying, I liked the sense of being in a place where time had stood still for more than 200 years.

 ________

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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Moe and the Stooges: Bigger Than Babs?

 

Erasmus Hall High School has always made a point of publicizing its famous alumni, of which there are plenty. The list, which includes actors, writers, athletes, and a certain chess champion, is well known. (You can read it here and here.) Barbra Streisand, of course, was the local girl that everybody in Flatbush knew about, even if they didn't go to Erasmus.

 

Babs could not only sing; she was an honor student—a role model for the entire neighborhood. Yet it was almost a secret that somebody whose fame arguably rivals or eclipses that of the great Ms. Streisand also attended Erasmus.

 

The school, presumably, preferred that the student body remain ignorant of the fact that a high school dropout could become rich and famous by performing violent acts of slapstick stupidity.

 

Yes, Moe Howard was, however briefly, an Erasmian. And he makes a cameo appearance in Bobby in Naziland—because, in 1962, to promote the film The Three Stooges in Orbit, the Stooges made a live appearance at the Lowe's Kings, on Flatbush Avenue, sending the packed house of Stooge-crazy kids into paroxysms of ecstasy. (That's Larry, Moe, and Curly in the photo.)

 

And yes, I was there. My takeaway from that memorable afternoon: Larry's hair was real.

________

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 Gin Mills of Church Avenue

 

I never heard anybody call it the "Maple Court Cafe," but that's its official name, at least according to the above postcard. Everybody called it the "Maple Court Tavern," because that's what it was—a tavern, a bar, or as my father called every low-rent dive on Church Avenue, a "gin mill."

 

And though the postcard makes it look like a classy joint—it was once the conveniently located bar of choice for the wealthy denizens of Prospect Park South—by the time I came to know it, it was a dim, dank, dingy place. There were no potted plants or souvenir postcards or palm trees painted on the walls. According to my parents, it was where the "goyim" did their drinking. In my mind's eye, the bar was horseshoe shaped. But it was, in fact, a rectangle with curved corners. Because I sat at the far end, I can see how I misremembered that.

 

The Stingo I refer to in the quote under the postcard is the narrator of William Styron's Holocaust novel, Sophie's Choice. It's one of the many places in Flatbush that appear in his book as well as mine, and in Bobby in Naziland, I spend a couple of pages contrasting my own impressions of the neighborhood with Stingo's.

 

Every store, bar, and restaurant on Church Avenue's commercial strip has since been replaced by some other kind of store or restaurant (though no bars). A laundry has become a health food store. Two candy stores, including my father's, have become part of a subway station.

 

And the Maple Court Tavern (or cafe) is a pharmacy. Choose your poison, though now you need a prescription.

________

Headpress will publish Bobby in Naziland September 1; it's now available for pre-order on Amazon and all other online booksellers.

 

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King of the Jews

 

When the Dodgers played their last game in Brooklyn, on September 24, 1957, I was five years old and had just begun kindergarten. As I explain in Bobby in Naziland, I am among the last generation to have a living memory of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Had I been born just a few months later, I would not have been old enough to remember them.

 

So yes, I remember seeing them play on the tiny screen of our black-and-white TV, while my mother, a true-blue Dodgers fan, and her friends sat around the living room cheering "them Bums" on. Even more clearly, I remember people talking about the Dodgers because people talked about them for years after they left Brooklyn. And they never stopped talking about Bobby Thomson's soul-destroying "shot heard 'round the world" in the 1951 playoff game between the Dodgers and Giants.

 

Yet long after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, the spirit of Brooklyn-born Jew and strikeout artist Sandy Koufax—the rare local boy who'd played for his hometown team—continued to hover over the baseball diamonds of the Parade Grounds, where he'd learned his craft. Koufax—his rookie card from 1955 is shown above—was an inspiration to any Jewish kid who'd ever picked up a baseball and harbored, even for a minute, the slightest inklings of a major league dream.

 

Yet Koufax had his greatest moment as a Jew in Baseball nearly a decade after the Dodgers (like so many other Brooklynites) had split for the Coast. Game one of the 1965 World Series, between the Dodgers and Minnesota Twins, was scheduled for October 6—which was also Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish Year. Koufax, the Dodger ace, was supposed to pitch that day. But in his entire career he'd never pitched on Yom Kipper, and he declined to pitch even this crucial game.

 

That was the day he was crowned King of the Jews—because he demonstrated to the world at large and every goyim boss who'd ever demanded otherwise that no Jew, no matter how important his or her job, had to work on Yom Kipper.

 

The other Dodger ace, Don Drysdale, pitched on Yom Kipper, and LA lost. Koufax then pitched game two, but the Dodgers lost again—before going on to take four out of the next five games, with Koufax winning games five and seven, thereby giving LA (and the Jews) the world championship.

________

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The Pink Palace

 

In Bobby in Naziland, I describe the experience of reading William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice, in 1979, and my astonishment at discovering that its main setting was a ramshackle rooming house on the corner of Caton Avenue and Marlborough Road, two blocks from where I once lived. I used to pass that house every day, walking to and from my grade school, which was across the street.

 

Styron called the house the "Pink Palace." His alter ego, Stingo, and Sophie, an Auschwitz survivor, both lived there. As I was reading the book, I thought that Sophie could have been the fictional incarnation of any number of my neighbors—like the woman who worked in a nearby bakery on whose arm I first saw, in 1956, the blue Auschwitz number tattooed. I later found out that Styron and the woman upon whom he had based Sophie really did live in that house.

 

In Bobby in Naziland I wrote: "That a novel dealing with the Holocaust would one day be set in Flatbush was probably inevitable. But who could have predicted that it would be written not by a Jew or even a native Flatbushian, but by a goy from Newport News, Virginia, who had lived in the neighborhood for only a few months"?

 

Sophie's Choice allowed me to see Flatbush, a place I knew better than any patch of real estate on the planet, with fresh eyes. Styron, I wrote, expressed in his book "a simple truth that I'd never before heard anyone say: Flatbush was more Jewish than Tel Aviv."

 

The Pink Palace was torn down many years ago, replaced by a tan brick building housing a doctor's office. New York's tax photo archive, shot in 1940, supposedly includes every building in the city. But the Pink Palace, either overlooked or misfiled, is not there, and I can't find any pictures of it.

 

The house in the above photo is the house that played the Pink Palace in the 1982 film Sophie's Choice, starring Meryl Streep as Sophie, and Peter MacNicol (shown approaching the house) as Stingo. That house is located in Prospect Park South, on Rugby Road, a few blocks from where the real house once stood.

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10/15/64

 

My father's candy store was torn down in the 1980s. The spot where it once stood is now part of the Church Avenue subway station. For myriad reasons that I examine in Bobby in Naziland, there are no candy store pictures in our family photo album. I am, however, aware of two pictures of the store. One can be found here, among the collection of Brooklyn tax photos shot in 1940.

 

The other one is above, taken on the afternoon of October 15, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson was campaigning in Brooklyn along with Robert Kennedy, who was running for the senate.

 

To me, the most remarkable thing about this photo is not that the president and a Kennedy are riding in an open limousine less than a year after Dallas. It's that it's the best picture I have of the candy store. You can see it on the left, in the middle of the block, next to the entrance to the BMT subway station, and the photo is clear enough to make out individual magazines and newspapers hanging above the store's windows.

 

I found the photo on Reddit some time ago but have been unable to track down the photographer. I'd like to see what else he (or she) shot that day.

 

I was standing outside the frame, a half-block away, on the corner of East 17th Street. Another photo, taken there moments later, ran in Look magazine. I can't find it online—Look, apparently, has yet to be digitized. It shows LBJ lifting into the limo a woman holding a sign that says, "We Love You. We Need You."

 

Flatbush was indeed a Democratic stronghold, and even my law-and-order Republican father was so caught up in the Johnson-Kennedy mania unfolding outside his store that he felt it was his patriotic duty to offer the president one of his famous egg creams.

 

There's one more thing about the photo I should point out: There's not one black or brown face in the crowd. Flatbush, in 1964, remained segregated; racism ran rampant; and in certain quarters the "N-word" was tossed around with impunity.

 

This, too, is a tragedy that Bobby in Naziland explores viscerally and in depth.

________

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A Faded Relic

 

Each apartment in Brighton Hall had a sealed-off fireplace in the living room, and I felt a pang of regret every time I looked at the outline on the wall in my apartment where the fireplace used to be. It would have been so cool to have a working fireplace, and so warm to sit by the hearth on the frequent frigid winter days when the boiler was broken and there was no heat or hot water. Having earned a camping merit badge in the Boy Scouts, I was good at building fires.

 

The fireplace in the above photo was the only one in the building that was not completely hidden. It was located in a common room off to the side of the first-floor entrance hall. When I lived there, the room served no purpose (as is still the case); sometimes people chained up their bikes there. But the architectural detail that went into that room is indicative of the building's luxurious origins. Note the heads carved into the pseudo-Ionic columns above the mantle, framing a frieze; the combination Ionic-Corinthian marble column in the foreground (a counterpoint to the Doric columns outside); the marble panel next to the column; and the elaborate moldings on the ceiling and walls.

 

Because Brighton Hall would be located close to the Parade Grounds and Prospect Park, and around the corner from a subway that would put you in Manhattan in 20 minutes, the builders thought East 17th Street was a perfect spot for a luxury apartment house. But their timing was off. The Great Depression hit as the building was being completed, and neglect set in immediately. By the time my parents signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment, in 1953, Brighton Hall was a faded relic. But the rent was a reasonable $36 per month and my father could walk to work. His candy store on Church Avenue was 174 steps from the front door.

 

Even today, as Brooklyn becomes as gentrified as Manhattan, somehow the odd-numbered side of East 17th Street between Church and Caton Avenues remains the block that gentrification forgot.

________

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The Columns of Brighton Hall

 

Columns: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. You learn about them in school, especially if you studied architecture (which I did for a year at City College). They were a common sight in my neighborhood, found on all kinds of buildings, from shabby to sumptuous. (See "Tara of Flatbush.")

 

The columns in the above photo, taken in 2019, are the ones in front of Brighton Hall, the building on East 17th Street where I lived from 1953–65. The building itself and the street in front of it are two of the main settings for Bobby in Naziland.

 

As I've noted in previous posts, much about the building and street have changed in the ensuing decades. For example, it's a different front door, the concrete bannisters are gone, the lights are new, and there were no fences. The columns, too, have been modified. Though still clearly Doric, the fluting that I recall so well is no longer visible; the columns have been covered in some sort of spackle-like material and painted black. (Click here to see how the building looked in 1940.)

 

Yet there they stand, as solid as ever. And when I look upon them now, I remember that once upon a time I was small enough to fit, with room to spare, between the columns and the walls. And that's where I stood so many years ago when I pressed my cheek against the fluted gray stone.

 

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Tara of Flatbush

 

It's one of the most striking homes in serene and stately Prospect Park South, and I began to think of it as Tara of Flatbush after seeing Gone With the Wind. Modeled after a classical Greek temple, this glorious colonnaded abode looked like the kind of place Scarlett O'Hara would have wanted to live… had she ever come north to Brooklyn.

 

Flatbush Tara also had an attached greenhouse in the back (not visible in this photo), which appears to have been converted to a sunroom. It's smaller than I remember from bygone days, and I now doubt my entire apartment on East 17th Street, two blocks away, would have fit inside, as the caption, excerpted from Bobby in Naziland, says. But that's the way it looked to me as a kid—which is indicative of how the passage of time distorts memory. The more time that passes, the more the line blurs between what you remember and the reality of the way it was. That, too, is a theme I explore in the book.

 

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