Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wednesday Evening in Ditmas Park: Vox Pop Publish Yourself & Community Publishing Party

This post is from Richard Grayson's MySpace blog for Sunday, December 23, 2007:

Wednesday Evening at Vox Pop: Publish Yourself & Community Publishing Party

On Wednesday evening, I went to Vox Pop, the amazing coffee bar/bookstore/performance space/community center and now instant-publishing center on Cortelyou Road by Stratford Road in America's most diverse neighborhood, Brooklyn's Ditmas Park.

In 1966, when I was 15 I started hanging out around there because of my weekly sessions just up the block with my friendly neighborhood psychiatrist, Dr. Abbott A. Lippman, who got his medical degree from NYU during World War I and who grew orchids and taught me how to swallow pills without water.

I've always loved the neighborhood, even before Sander Hicks brought Vox Pop there and lots of other exciting places lined Cortelyou Road.

Apparently lots of other people like the neighborhood too. To celebrate Publish Yourself, Vox Pop's new community book printing and publishing center around the corner from the coffee bar, they've published What I Love About This Neighborhood, a 48-page paperback featuring "a collection of memories" by residents of Ditmas Park/Flatbush and other Brooklynites.

Leading off the collection is contributor Marty Markowitz, whom I first met at Brooklyn College back in the 1970s when he was head of the Graduate Students Organization which had its office where I hung out with other undergrad student government/newspaper/radical types, and who went on to become a community organizer, state senator and Brooklyn Borough President for the past six years.

Marty was on hand for the party, though a bit late because former President Bill Clinton had asked Marty to introduce him at a fundraiser that evening. His reminiscence of Flatbush and Ditmas Park resonated with me, although I'm kind of shocked that Marty actually managed to eat the dish called "the Kitchen Sink" at the old Jahn's ice cream parlor on Church off Flatbush back in our day.

The other contributors to What I Love About This Neighborhood share memories of the neighborhood, which now features groceries and eateries from the far ends of planet earth. Oldtimers who can recall stores I used to go in during the 1960s and 1970s and newcomers from rural America and even Manhattan all have distinctive voices, and all share their love of Ditmas Park/Flatbush and similar-but-distinct Brooklyn neighborhoods. I wonder if the Glenn Feingold who describes eating his way through Windsor Terrace ("If you want to eat tofu, go to L.A. and meditate") is my old friend whom I last recall driving home to his parents' apartment in Bergen Beach in, oh, about 1974. . .

Sander, founder of Soft Skull Press, showed me around the Publish Yourself store. It's a print-on-demand micropublisher, and the bookmaster Gabriel Stuart let me watch the magic as he produced a professional-looking paperback with his InstaPrinter machine within a few minutes.

Around the store are many paperbacks published there, and all look as good as the much more expensive small press paperbacks I used to see at our New York Small Press Book Fairs thirty years ago. If you're interested in publishing a book, Sander told me his prices are better than those of some of the more established POD firms. Check out the website for more info.

Thanks to Sander, Gabriel, and the other great people associated with Vox Pop and Publish Yourself for a fine evening and a nice little book about Brooklyn.

Now I'm leaving Brooklyn, heading out West for some holiday tofu and meditation.