Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ninety Years Ago Today in Brooklyn: The Wedding of Our Grandparents, Nathan Ginsberg and Sylvia Cohen

BONIATOS ARE NOT BORING by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's Boniatos Are Not Boring is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 125-page $7.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

Some misguided souls think that boniatos - the tropical sweet potatoes beloved in South Florida - are boring.

Not Richard Grayson, author of BONIATOS ARE NOT BORING, who appreciates this Latin Caribbean tuber in all its morning glory. Out of boniatos and other supposedly ordinary things - the French game of Mille Bornes, a system for transmitting business data, a junior high production of "The King and I," out-of-the-way Vietnamese shopping malls in Silicon Valley, the display advertising department of the Village Voice and sunbathing in the middle of San Francisco - can be made magically inventive short stories, slices of American life as filling and satisfying as, well, boniatos themselves.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

SALUGI AT STARBUCKS by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's Salugi at Starbucks is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 124-page $7.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

In this quartet of stories about late 20th century gay relationships gone awry, Richard Grayson's young male characters are always looking in all the wrong places. As The American Book Review wrote:

"They are young gay men trying to survive in a hostile or marginally accepting world. They conduct themselves with manic cheer. They possess a grace and courage that have to substitute for the acceptance and love that most people look for. Their successes in this sphere are meager; their disappointments, many.

Yet, despite a seeming similarity in their drives – and palpable coincidences of character and action – Grayson rarely palls. His young men are imbued with a sweet, endearing nuttiness that serves both to energize and individualize. He depicts our cyberspace and e-mail age, so convenient for rapidly dissolving and re-forming associations, invariably against a backdrop of the search for sincere love and the deaths that ravage gay men and their partners."

Friday, February 26, 2010

MOON OVER MOLDOVA by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's Moon Over Moldova is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 103-page $6.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

MOON OVER MOLDOVA presents three stories by acclaimed writer Richard Grayson. In "Moon Over Moldova," while a Southern college town is rocked by a gay rights referendum, a grad student finds even a "backward" former Soviet republic a refuge from personal and political turmoil. In "Boys Club," a queercore band's bassist has a crush on the group's insufferably punker-than-thou lead singer. And "Anything But Sympathy" artfully conflates stories about elderly nursing home residents; the real-life power broker and "uncrowned king of Florida," banker Ed Hall; young actors and others dying too young of AIDS; and a thirtysomething teacher's affair with a teenage boy who seems to know a lot more than he does. Publishers Weekly called Richard Grayson's uniquely quirky narratives "lighter and funnier than most gay fiction" and The Sun-Sentinel noted: "Although memorial services for young men seem commonplace in Grayson's fiction, the stories are not tragedies. They are funny, intelligently written and original."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Richard Grayson: Broke-Ass of the Week at Broke-Ass Stuart's Goddamn Website

We are honored to be "Broke-Ass of the Week" at the estimable writer Broke Ass Stuart's Goddamn Website. As Stuart explains at the start of the post:
Every week we feature a different person from the community shedding a little light on their life of brokeitude. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about the human spirit...probably not...

Richard Grayson is an OG Broke-Ass. The dude is originally from Brooklyn, was a hippie 40 years ago, and has never had a drink of booze in his life. He’s also a writer... Continued here

Many thanks to Stuart Schuffman for the post. His books on how to live cheaply are the quintessential guides to a satisfying existence.

Monday, February 22, 2010

THE BOY WHO FELL TO BROOKLYN by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's The Boy Who Fell to Brooklyn is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 158-page $7.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

In these nine idiosyncratic stories collected from literary magazines, acclaimed author (WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK, LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG) Richard Grayson appealingly employs snapshots of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in what Kirkus Reviews has called his "comic fiction crammed with details adopted from pop culture and the daily news."

The title story, about the 1960 Park Slope plane crash, appeared in the University of Miami literary magazine Mangrove. Other stories in the book originally appeared in the print magazines Small Spiral Notebook, Albany Review, X: A Journal of the Arts, Star-Web Paper, and Mati; and the webzines Surgery of Modern Warfare, Pindeldyboz, Wandering Army, Mosaic Minds, and FRiGG Magazine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

INSIDE BARBARA WALTERS by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's Inside Barbara Walters is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 129-page $7.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

How did a mischievous monkey rescue Barbara Walters from obscurity? Why did Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr have lunch with a man the FBI thought was planning to kill him? What proposition did Bishop Fulton J. Sheen make to a teenage boy he met in a Manhattan supermarket? Who unexpectedly came to Donald Trump's assistance when the billionaire was in financial trouble? Why did Clarence Thomas's accuser Anita Hill give up law for the violent sport of roller derby? Which prominent surgeon got revenge on his worst enemy - by seducing her son and marrying her widowed mother?

The answer to these and even more fantastic questions can be found in the tantalizing tales collected in INSIDE BARBARA WALTERS by acclaimed short story writer Richard Grayson, author of LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG and THE SILICON VALLEY DIET. These stories originally appeared in the print magazines X: A Journal of the Arts, Willmore City, Maelstrom Review, and Aldebaran; and the webzines Yankee Pot Roast, Monkeybicycle, 3:AM, Storymania, and The Edward Society.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jeffrey Knapp, RIP

We are very sorry to hear of the passing of our old friend from Florida, Jeffrey Knapp, a writer, teacher, artist and gentleman of extraordinary character and grace. Here is his obituary from the Miami Herald:
After 9 years of a most courageous battle with cancer, Jeffrey Ira Knapp passed away on Wednesday, February 17, in his home, with his family at his bedside. Jeffrey was born on March 2, 1949, in Elizabeth, NJ, the son of the late Sam and Roz Knapp. He attended Emerson College, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of Miami, where, as a Samuel Beckett scholar, he received his Masters Degree in Literature and was a recent graduate of the Florence Melton Center for Jewish Education.

Jeffrey lived on Miami Beach for thirty-five years and was a fixture in the city's art and literary communities. He was an avid art collector specializing in Haitian and Outsider folk art. He co-created many art installations and his poetry was brought to life through his wife, Dina's, illustrations.

Jeffrey was a connoisseur of life and celebrated travel, music, fashion, food, art and literature. He spoke fluent Hebrew, French, Arabic, and Creole, wrote and translated poetry, including the poetry of the estimable Haitian poet Felix Morriseau-Leroy.

He founded Florida's Poetry in the Schools program, and was one of three itinerant "Bicycle Poets" who brought poetry to students throughout the State. He served on the Board of Tigertail Productions. He also founded and edited Dial-a-Poem.

His Dada-Surrealist poems appeared in many prestigious literary journals including Ploughshares and Boston Review of the Arts.

Jeffrey held a position at Florida International University since 1989, first as a composition instructor in the English Department. He became Director of the First-Year Interest Groups Program, and in 2002 was named Director of the Academy for the Art of Teaching.

He was a Faculty Senator, the Chair of the University Core Curriculum Oversight Committee, co-chair of the Teaching and Learning with Technology Roundtable, a member of the Access and Equity Committee and the Academic Learning Compacts Committee, and a coordinator for the Title V project.

Jeffrey presented pedagogical papers at a number of leading international and national conferences on learning communities and on teaching and learning with technology. In 2009 Jeffrey was very honored to be the recipient of the President's Access & Equity Award at FIU, presented to a full- time employee who has consistently gone above and beyond his or her job responsibilities to promote and ensure diversity and inclusiveness.

Jeffrey also was a Hebrew School teacher, member of the Board of Education and the Board of Trustees at Temple Beth Shalom and shared the love of his heritage with many students. His wife, the artist Dina Knapp, his daughters Ariel Knapp of Los Angeles, Astra Schwartz Dorf of New York, a grandchild, Athena Dorf, and his two loving poodles, Paris and Colette, survive him.

We first met Jeffrey in the winter or spring of 1981, at one of the weekend monthly Poetry in a Pub events that met at Fort Lauderdale locations back then. We think he used to come with Mitch Kaplan (best known as the owner of the great Books & Books and the big macher behind the Miami International Book Festival) and Jim Hall, then teaching poetry writing at FIU (now best known as James W. Hall, author of the terrific Thorn thrillers).

We liked Jeffrey right away; he had a great sense of humor always and was really smart about poetry and about people. With his wife Dina and others, he created many whimsical yet profound works of visual and literary art. Jeffrey seemed to know a lot about everything, be it practical or undeservedly obscure; we remember the revelation back in the early 1980s when he showed us his translations of the great Haitian Creole poet Felix Morriseau-Leroy. We fondly recall a fun reading together, all humorous poetry and fiction, for the Miami Waves Festival at Miami-Dade Community College's Inter-American Center in Little Havana in the spring of 1983.

A reviewer attending a 2005 reading wrote in Miami Poetry Review:
Jeffrey Knapp: He's the one that offered up that great phrase about reading one poem too few, etc. Jeffrey is the living embodiment of poetic realism. His ability to offer up concrete details and his simple and direct style was a breath of fresh air... Listening to his poetry was like watching a home movie; there was little fluff, but a lot of reality. He also managed to be funny, a feat which is rarely accomplished by your run of the mill poet.

Being with Jeffrey was always fun. In 1996 we once again served with him on the Literature Organizations grant panel for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and he made those meetings and the days we spent in Tallahassee, a pleasure. We were working as a staff attorney at the University of Florida in those days, and Jeffrey hitched a ride with us as far as Lake City (where I-10 meets I-75) so that a friend from Jacksonville could pick him up. (Jeffrey had friends everywhere.)

Lake City was, in those days, pretty dumpy, and we had time to kill before his friend came, so we walked around a nearly-deserted forlorn mall and found one of those photo booths where they take a strip of paper and put four photos on it. Jeffrey had us pose for the first two, quickly changed places for the third one, and then we rushed back into the photo booth for the fourth pic. When the strip came out, it looked startling: as if one person were, suddenly and momentarily, turned into another. Jeffrey had taken a number of these with other people before, he told us.

It was so like him. He startled people with joy everywhere he went:
"Poetry on wheels" is how Jeffrey Knapp describes his new band of cycling troubadours. He hopes they can stir enthusiasm for verse in the young crowd.
The Bicycle Poets, a group of five local poets, will pedal into two North Central Dade schools and surprise student bodies with a bit of poetry. The group makes its debut Friday.

Knapp worked for 15 years with the Poets-in-Schools program in Dade County Public Schools, in which accomplished poets lead workshops in grade schools. Other Bicycle Poets include Jamaican-born poet Geoffrey Philp, Afro-Cuban poet Adrian Castro and Campbell McGrath, recently arrived from Chicago.

"You'd be amazed how excited the kids get," Knapp says. "Some of them want to stay and write their own poetry. Some even want to skip lunch or P.E. to keep on writing."

He has published more than a dozen books filled with poetry from the children he has visited in Dade, Broward and Monroe county schools. The books bear titles such as Imitations of Immortality, Notes from the Other Ground and Daughter of Notes from the Other Ground.

To find new ways of reaching children, Knapp developed the concept of bicycle poets. Knapp, an avid bicyclist, thought cycling into the poetry readings would add spontaneity.

"I wanted to just get there and say, 'Here we are,'" he says. . .So bent are they on surprising their audiences that they've instructed the schools to not tell the children why they're being brought outside in the middle of the day.
- "Pedaling Poetry to School Kids," Miami Herald, March 10, 1994

Volcanos erupting popcorn, glass grasshoppers, dishpans that revolt and chickens laying square eggs.

Strange notions these kids in Erma Carter's fifth-grade classroom at North Miami Beach Elementary have.

And there's this guy in a short denim jacket and earth shoes with tousled black hair and beard padding around the room, waving a Coke can, bantering back and forth with the kids, and he's actually eliciting all this "square-egged" "glass grasshopper" nonsense from the kids.

Well, it's not nonsense at all. It's poetry. And Jeffrey a poet teaching elementary school kids that poetry isn't necessarily about daisies and sunsets and staring out the window at rain pelt-pelting down.

He's teaching those kids that they too can write poetry, and that it can be fun. "I wouldn't say kids like us more than recess," Knapp confides. "But we're up there on the list."
- "Kids and Poetry Mix in Classroom," Miami News, February 10, 1976

Jeffrey Knapp was up there on a lot of people's lists. We'll miss him a lot. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Dina, his daughters and his granddaughter.

(Thanks to Steve Malagodi for the old photos.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

VAMPIRES OF NORTHWEST ARKANSAS by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle Store

Richard Grayson's Vampires of Northwest Arkansas is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢.

Here is the promo material for the 149-page $7.99 paperback edition from Art Pants Company:

Ten stories by acclaimed short story writer Richard Grayson (WITH HITLER IN NEW YORK, I SURVIVED CARACAS TRAFFIC, LINCOLN'S DOCTOR'S DOG, I BRAKE FOR DELMORE SCHWARTZ, WHO WILL KISS THE PIG?: SEX STORIES FOR TEENS) spotlight gay men coping with unusual situations: a best friend and fellow former prostitute bitten by an Ozarks bat in the wake of 9/11; a boyfriend morbidly worried about an impending worldwide chocolate shortage; an Orthodox Jew who consults his rabbi because a lover refuses to ever remove his socks during sex; a young African-American college student on a homophobic campus who has to care for his Muslim roommate’s therapy monkey; a Wyoming cattle ranch manager dealing with an outbreak of leafy spurge on his land; a Brooklyn man with a younger Japanese lover reflecting on his Williamsburg neighborhood’s demographic transitions from Italian to Hispanic to hipster to yuppie; a writer confronting on his past affair with his much younger stepbrother and contrasting his adventures with those of the comic book superhero Green Arrow; a Puerto Rican teacher compelled to watch shirtless teabag-eating white boys online; a former babysitter of the actor Laurence Fishburne unable to understand the young gay Phoenix couple who are his tenants; and a Florida man haunted by the shuttered suburban movie theaters of his youth. Wickedly funny and weirdly profound, these talky stories weave a startling tapestry of quirky gay life in the America of the last two decades.

The pieces originally appeared in the such webzines (most now defunct) as VerbSap, Opium, Rio, Me Three, Apogee, The Magazine Shiver, The Rumpus and Pug Magazine.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Morning in Williamsburg: Scenic G Train Substitute Shuttle Bus Ride to Long Island City

Since we are off this weekend, we decided to complete the scenic ride on the (still-running) G train substitute shuttle bus. A few weeks ago, we went from Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn, where one end of the route is, by the Jay Street/Borough Hall subway station, to Williamsburg at the stop at the Metropolitan Avenue station on Union Avenue a block from Dumbo Books HQ.

Today we went from that stop to the other end of the route, not at Court Square, where the G train usually ends, but one stop further in Long Island City, by Queens Plaza, where people can connect with the V, R and E trains (and the N, W and 7 trains if they walk up to the Queensboro Plaza el station).

We take off at Union Avenue and almost immediately go under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with Meekever Avenue as its access road. Growing up in remote subway-less southwestern Brooklyn, we started driving even before we legally could, so our early image of Brooklyn, and New York City, comes from the perspective of a car.

It's surprising to us in doing our diary books from the 1970s that, more often than not, we drove into Manhattan rather than took the subway. The BQE was how we always came to Williamsburg - or maybe Bedford Avenue when there was extra time.

There wasn't much traffic, so we went fast up Union Avenue (we almost wrote "Union Street," which we knew from Park Slope before we knew from Union Avenue; we still make that mistake too often, and also sometimes get confused between Clinton Avenue and Clinton Street, Sterling Street and Sterling Place, and Grand Street and Grand Avenue - which actually are the same street, in different boroughs). Anyway, we whizzed by snowy McCarren Park after turning up Bedford Avenue.

We stopped at the usual B48 bus stop at Nassau Avenue by that subway stop. (Yeah, we also mix up Nassau Avenue and Nassau Street.) Taking the G train from points north, those of us who get out at Metropolitan Avenue know to stay in the last car if we want to exit quickly. (Or, coming from Church Avenue towards Metropolitan, we sit in the first car.)

The bus seems to be going just as fast as the subway this morning. We love walking up and down Manhattan Avenue and seeing the stores with the signs in Polish, the dueling Rite-Aid stores a block apart, Russ Pizza, Peter Pan Donuts, the bargain stores, etc. Lately there have been more boarded-up places, but Greenpoint's main shopping drag is still one of our fave places.

We love to look at the architectural landmark St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church. The name of the parish precedes the arrival of Italian immigrants into this part of Brooklyn because it's from 1858.

Later, the parish of St. Alphonsus was established nearby, but it was merged with St. Anthony of Padua in 1976, so the church is really namesd St. Anthony of Padua-St. Alphonsus now. If you've never gone in there, the organ is incredible.

We turn right at Greenpoint Avenue and stop at the regular bus stop for the B24 bus, which we call the Brooklyn boomerang because it takes the very indirect route from Greenpoint to Williamsburg via Sunnyside, Queens over the BQE.

Now we go where the B62 (formerly B61) bus goes, up McGuinness Boulevard, the wide, car-friendly boulevard that we used to take if we wanted to drive from Williamsburg to upper Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge. Actually, we're replicating that route pretty much now. We have no idea which streets the G train actually goes under on its way under Newtown Creek to Queens.

We take the bridge, of course.

With the Kosciusko Bridge being rebuilt (of the four proposed designs, we like the arch but then the Bayonne Bridge was always our favorite in New York City), maybe more people will avoid the BQE and take the Pulaski, which was reconstructed in 1994, fifty years after its opening.
The Citigroup Building (One Court Square) dominates the skyline from Greenpoint on, and we've grown fond of it, if only because the construction of the condo across the street, along with Karl Fischer Row on Bayard Street (which we ignored in the fourth pic on this post) have blocked the Manhattan skyline except for the Citigroup Center from our left bedroom window and so we like seeing the Citicorp Building from the right window.

We're in Queens, on 11th Street in Hunters Point, basically mimicking the route of the B62 across Jackson Avenue which eventually becomes 25A and turns into Northern Boulevard. If you have a fetish for straight rides you could take this way out pass Manhasset, Greenvale, Huntington or even almost to Riverhead. (We've taken this route the other way to the Queensboro Bridge from Locust Valley or Oyster Bay on Sunday mornigns and it's pretty fast.)

This afternoon the streets are ugly with the piled-up dirty snow.

We're on the right side of the bus, so we missed taking a pic of PS 1 on the left side and have to settle for this oil and lumber company.

But on the right is a different bastion of art than PS 1: here's 5 Pointz, the Institute of Higher Burnin'. Okay, it ain't a gallery or a museum (yet), but 5 Pointz is a living collage of graffiti art covering a converted warehouse full of artist studios.

The art of famous writers like Stay High 149, Tracy 168, Cope2, Part, and Tats Cru and novice graffiti artists alike covers the building's facade, all done with the encouragement of the building's owner to create what some call the planet's premier graffiti mecca.

There's been a lot of construction around the Court Square (the 7 train stop is called Courthouse Square, and eventually you'll be able to make a direct transfer rather than walking all over the place with your unlimited MetroCard) area lately, both with the el and a Jackson Avenue beautification project. See this story from the great blog liQcity.

During a very hot day last summer, we decided we wanted something quicker than the very nice Court Square Diner and tried to get into Quizno's. But it was closed. Is it ever open on weekends or late nights?

The Long Island City Courthouse is still pretty magnificent. It was built in the 1870s, when Long Island City was the county seat of Queens County (before the 1898 NYC consolidation) in the French Second Empire style and it was redone in 1908 after a big fire.

Weirdly, the bus made a second stop at the Court Square station. This past summer, we took a weekend shuttle bus substitute for the E train from the F train stop near Queensbridge Park and the bus driver asked us, the lone passenger, whether we wanted the north or stop bus stop, so we guess it's a policy for shuttle buses to have two stops at Court Square/Courthouse Square/23rd Street-Ely Avenue (the E/V station's name).

We're left off at the end of the route when the bus turns left. As we head toward the Queens Plaza station (Queensboro Plaza the el behind), we see another substitute G train shuttle bus waiting to take the unwary towards Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn. This was a short, pleasant ride and if you didn't want to go anywhere else, it was free sightseeing in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City.