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Flatbush Flashback

One Night Only

This event is happening five days after Bloomsday. But Lexi Love will be there, too, and she'll be auctioning herself off for a date to benefit the victims of the Oklahoma tornados. Check her out THIS SUNDAY in the more intimate Beaver Street setting.
By all outward appearances, this Bloomsday on Beaver Street thing is really happening in about 55 hours, and that means that I've got to put the finishing touches on emcee Byron Nilsson's script and remind my multitude of overbooked and date-and-time challenged literature-loving friends that the event is THIS SUNDAY, at 7:00 P.M., at the upstairs bar of the Killarney Rose, at 80 Beaver Street in New York City. That means if you're on my mailing list or a Facebook friend, you'll soon be receiving one last gentle reminder. And if you're a special case with a sense of time that can perhaps be described as "Majorcan," you can expect a personal phone call from me. So, pick up.

In the meantime, I'll share a fun fact about James Joyce's Ulysses, which is one of the books we'll be celebrating THIS SUNDAY: In episode 17, "Ithaca," in the wee hours of June 17, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus's "nocturnal perambulation" through Dublin take them to Beaver Street. Joyce writes: "the visit to the disorderly house of Mrs Bella Cohen, 82 Tyrone street, lower, and subsequent brawl and chance medley in Beaver street (Armageddon)…"

And finally: Adult actress and CEO of Exotic Interludes, Lexi Love, who will be reading THIS SUNDAY, on Beaver Street, will also be auctioning herself off for a one-on-one date on June 21, Fleshbot Friday, at Headquarters, in Manhattan. The event is a benefit for victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes and all proceeds will go to the Red Cross. You might keep in mind that seven months ago, during Hurricane Sandy, Beaver Street and the Killarney Rose were underwater. Read More 
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Blackout Memories

Forty-seven years ago tonight, I witnessed my first major blackout. As the New York Metropolitan area continues to struggle with the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy and the ensuing power failure--some places are still without electricity--I will commemorate this anniversary with my blackout memories.

November 9, 1965: My family had recently moved to a new apartment on East 8th Street near Caton Avenue on the edge of Flatbush, in Brooklyn. My bar mitzvah was three days earlier, and our refrigerator was jammed to the bursting point with leftover food from the reception. I don't recall exactly how we found out that major portions of the Northeast and Canada had experienced a power failure, but I suspect that somewhere in the house a radio or TV was playing, and around 5:30 that evening the broadcast turned to static. Yet, the lights remained on. What I do remember most distinctly about that night was going up to the roof with my cousin Ellen, who lived in the building, and looking out at an ocean of darkness as far as the eye could see—except for our building and the ten or so surrounding blocks. We were in the middle of a little island of light, unaffected by the blackout. But I was sad because I didn’t get to experience a historic event. My mother, however, was thrilled because the food in the refrigerator was not going to spoil.

July 13, 1977: It was the middle of a sweltering summer and I was living in an unair-conditioned apartment on Riverside Drive, in Washington Heights, with a roommate and a dog. Having recently finished graduate school and embarked on a career as a writer, I’d spent the day working on a book. The lights went out only in New York City around 9:30 that night, and I recall sitting on the couch in the candlelit foyer, listening to reports of nearby looting and arson on a portable radio. But we couldn’t see any looting out the window; Riverside Drive was quiet. However, we prudently remained inside until the lights came on the next day. Thirty-five years later, I somehow associate this blackout with the death of Elvis Presley, but that didn’t happen till a month later, on August 16.

August 14, 2003: When the lights went out across the Northeast, Midwest, and Canada around 4:00 that afternoon, I was in my current apartment, in downtown Manhattan. It was hot, and the air conditioner suddenly died. I called Mary Lyn, who was working in Midtown—regular landlines remained in service—and asked her if she knew what was going on. There was a major power failure, she said, and she was going have to walk down 21 flights of stairs to get out of her office building. She got home about an hour later, just as Dee, a friend of ours who lived in the neighborhood, called. She wanted to join us to search for something to eat, so we went downstairs to meet her a few blocks away. New York was filled with people wandering around, asking each other, “What’s going on? Is it a terrorist attack?” Some people were listening to portable radios and many were trying to call—unsuccessfully—people on their cell phones.

As the sun went down, Mary Lyn, Dee, and I walked through Greenwich Village, feeling disoriented on familiar streets now shrouded in inky blackness. We found an open pizza place on Christopher Street and ate a couple of slices by candlelight. When we got home, our friend Laura, who was unable to get back home to Queens, was waiting for us at the top of the stairs. One of our neighbors has given her a little flashlight and somebody had bought her a glass of wine at a restaurant across the street. We went up to the roof and looked down at 6th Avenue, where a party at the restaurant had spilled onto the street. Laura slept on our couch. The power came on 27 hours later. Having kept the refrigerator closed the entire time, no food had spoiled. Read More 
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The Mindless Nattering of Pundits and Pollsters

The electoral map at “Democracy Plaza,” New York City.
It's election day--or "erection day" as John Lennon preferred to call it--and as the island of Manhattan continues its incremental crawl back to total normalcy from Sandy and its aftermath (and other parts of the greater metropolitan area struggle with epochal devastation) I can now look back on the darkest days of the hurricane and be thankful for the many blessings that a lack of electricity had bestowed upon me. The street was quiet. The phone was not constantly ringing with computers trying to sell me things. But first and foremost, for the 104 hours that I was without power, I didn't have to listen to the mindless nattering of pundits and pollsters.

Picture the Maiscott-Rosen household on any night of the blackout: In a candle-lit living room, with the cat curled up between us, Mary Lyn sat next to me on the couch reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye by flashlight as I listened to hurricane reports on our one working portable radio, a Sony Walkman that we hadn’t used in years. Kind of a combination of 19th century, pre-TV 20th century, and pre-iPod 21st century.

I can’t say those candle-lit nights were exactly fun, but this morning, as I was eating breakfast and listening to MSNBC, I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the good old days of last week. Broadcasting from so called “Democracy Plaza”—a name that brings to mind a central square in a totalitarian country—the usual suspects were jabbering about the polls and the electoral map imprinted on the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. If I heard correctly, a “journalist” is going to skate around, coloring each state red or blue as the results are announced, and a scoreboard-type contraption on the side of the GE building is going to count off the electoral votes until somebody gets the 270 needed to win.

A wave of revulsion practically ruined my breakfast as I realized that a major television network had turned an election with so much riding on it into a moronic game show. Which goes a long way towards explaining why I often find MSNBC only marginally less depressing than Fox News, and why 42 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. don’t vote.

I’ve heard reports that lines at New York City polling places are long and chaotic. But I refuse to be deterred. Read More 
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AT&T store on Wall Street near Water Street, where flood waters reached a height of ten feet. Photo by Mary Lyn Maiscott.
Life in downtown Manhattan continues to return to semi-normal in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. By "semi-normal," I mean subway service and mail delivery have not been fully restored, PATH trains are still completely out, supermarkets have not been fully restocked, some people still don't have heat and hot water, and further downtown, by the Battery, where damage was heavy, as this picture shows, water is still being pumped out of basements.

But lower Manhattan's problems don't amount to "a hill of beans" compared to what's happening in parts of Long Island, Staten Island, New Jersey, and especially the Rockaways, where 20,000-40,000 people have been left homeless, and there appears to be a Katrina-like humanitarian crisis brewing. And, as you may have heard, there's an election tomorrow. All of which is to say, it seems inappropriate to get back to book business as usual.

As longtime readers of this blog are aware, I’ve never shied away from discussing politics, though I tend to limit those discussions to issues that relate directly to Beaver Street. I have, for example, written at length about the fact that my former porn publisher, Lou Perretta, has donated money to Tea Party icon Scott Garrett, a New Jersey congressman who’s up for reelection tomorrow, and—as Jersey residents should note—has voted to drastically cut funding for FEMA’s disaster relief.

As for the presidential race, I mean really, what can I say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? Of course I support Obama, and the less said about Romney, the better. I don’t think anything I say here could possibly change anybody’s mind as far as who to vote for. But I do urge you to get out and vote, no matter where you are and who you support. Because if you think there’s no difference between the candidates, then you’re a fool. Read More 
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104 Hours

Watts Street, NYC, 4 P.M., November 2. Normally, this street, which feeds into the Holland Tunnel, is Gridlock City. Sandy turned downtown Manhattan into Ghost Town Manhattan .
I know there are a handful of you who read this blog every day. My usual excuse for not posting is that I'm on the road and there's too much going on for me to concentrate on writing anything more substantial than a tweet. Well, I've got a better excuse for not posting for the past four days: Hurricane Sandy.

I live in downtown Manhattan, and though there was no flooding or visible damage to my neighborhood, power was out for 104 hours, from 8:30 Monday night until 4:50 this morning, when the sound of burglar alarms woke us up. We looked out the window and the lights were back on. Many thanks to all of you who expressed concern and offered us shelter from the aftermath of the storm.

For the past four days, my life has revolved around walking to the “electricity zone” in Midtown Manhattan, finding a place to take a hot shower, check my e-mail, recharge my phone, and then lugging a couple of bags of ice two miles back to Soho. I’ll be writing more about Sandy and its aftermath in the coming days, but for now, let me just say that it’s a joy to be able to walk into a room, flip a switch, and see the light. Read More 
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Report from Flood Zone C

There's a hurricane bearing down on New York City, but from where I am, on the edge of Manhattan's Flood Zone C, five blocks from the Hudson River, all is calm. Yes, the wind does appear to be picking up, but it's not raining now and inside it's warm and cozy.

Yesterday, braving the longest line I've ever seen in the supermarket--longer than it was last year for Irene--I stocked up on provisions, though it was impossible to find flashlight batteries. (I'm also a little low on wine, should anybody nearby be reading this.) And even if Manhattan gets the full brunt of Sandy and the waters reach my building, I'm on the top floor, 70 feet above street level. So, for me, this hurricane will at worst be an inconvenience, even if the power goes out. And it's a perfectly good excuse to write about something other than the insanity of the book business.

My thoughts are, of course, with the people in the low-lying areas of the city, on Long Island, and in New Jersey. Be safe, read a book, and try to enjoy a day off from work. Read More 
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