More of Miss Prim’s New York

More of Miss Prim's New York

Before decamping to Connecticut, Miss Prim lived on East 26th Street in Manhattan. This car was parked on that street yesterday – a sort of a living shrine to the rigors of keeping and parking a car in New York City. The owner has used a permanent marker to indicate the reason for each of the dings, smashes, bits of chipped paint, and so forth.

This photo shows just one small section of the car. I have to give the owner credit for acknowledging that this is a “city car” and a warrior, not a pristine automobile in prime physical condition.

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Celebrating 35 Years with a Box of Staples

I had a moment that I thought Miss Prim would appreciate.

When I was a teenager, I received an Arrow stapler as a birthday gift. With that stapler came a box of staples. Now, 35 years later, I have put the last line of staples from that box into the stapler.

It is sort of amazing to me to think that with all the times I’ve moved from place to place, and even when I lived in really small spaces that allowed zero room for clutter, that Arrow stapler has always been with me. It’s a solid piece of work that will likely survive into the next millennium.

I know – a boring topic for a blog post. But I think Miss Prim would appreciate this stapler, with its old-world reliability, its associations of a happy birthday more than three decades ago, and its understated omnipresence and competence. 

Win a Poster of The Outsmarting of Criminals at Shelley’s Book Case

At Malice Domestic a few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Shelley Giusti, who blogs about mysteries at Shelley’s Book Case. Shelley kindly asked me to do a guest post for her, and it is live today.

There’s an added bonus for those who visit Shelley’s blog: the opportunity to win a poster of the stunning cover of The Outsmarting of Criminals! All you need to do is leave a comment on Shelley’s blog, and you’ll be entered to win. Good luck!

The View from Miss Prim’s (NYC) Apartment

The View from Miss Prim's (NYC) Apartment

Miss Prim’s NYC apartment is on East 26th Street, overlooking Madison Square Park. The park frequently features large-scale art installations. This is one of the sculptures featured in the park this week. The title is Folly, by Rachel Feinstein.

Click on the photo for more information about Madison Square Park.

A quick note: I have been working in the Madison Square Park neighborhood for more than a decade. In the early days, at lunchtime, you saw hundreds of people on the park benches reading books. Now, most of those people are tapping away frantically at cell phones. I know what Miss Prim would think about that …

April Has All My Tupperware

Another too-long blog post from me, and a quasi-short story.

Background: I play poker once a month with a raucous group of people who are masters of the well-placed one-liner. I go through life hearing good lines and thinking, “That would make a great title.” One particular night, one of my fellow pokerinos said, offhandedly, “April has all my Tupperware.” I don’t know April or why she has all this Tupperware, but it was enough to inspire me to write the first chapter of a novel that I will likely never write. I’d place it in the category of “snappy urban suspense,” if there’s such a thing.  And with that, I introduce….

 

April Has All My Tupperware

 A Lynda Connor Mystery

by Steven Rigolosi

 

 

Chapter 1

 

When the ordeal was over, Lynda reflected that everything might have turned out differently if she’d been a different type of New Yorker.

There are two types of Manhattanites: those who scope out every person sharing an elevator with them – seeking business opportunities, sexual trysts, new friends – and those who use their elevator journeys to retreat, ruminate, obsess, orchestrate. If Lynda hadn’t fit so snugly into the second category, she might have noticed the young Goth-inspired woman trying to get her attention, shyly attempting to make eye contact or start a conversation.

But Lynda’d had enough conversation for one evening. It was Wine Week in New York, and (after a day of dealing with journalists who wanted to know if the allegations made by Natasha Larroquette’s daughter were true, or just the workings of a lonely soul craving attention in the big city) she’d hauled herself to a restaurant on Ninth Avenue. The goal: to imbibe overpriced vino with the gals from her poker club. She’d enjoyed the Occhipinti Frappato quite a bit, the Jean-Marc Brocard “Domaine Ste. Claire” less so. April had been in rare form, drinking glass after glass of the Moulin de Gasse “Guilhem” Rosé while baiting the cocktail waitress, who had rubbed all of them the wrong way with her … what was the word? … supercilious attitude.

Of course they needed a snack to soak up all the alcohol, so they’d gone from Wine on 9 to a recently renovated Thai place that some of them had heard mentioned. April had read the Zagat’s overview, she’d said, and distinctly remembered the phrases “tasty morsels” and “zingy delights.” April’s recommendations were not always to be trusted (there’d been an ill-advised trek into Brooklyn that everyone in the poker group preferred to forget), but they were hungry, and they were in the neighborhood, and reviews on Yelp averaged almost four stars. And so the decision was made.

The Internet had decreed that they must order the spring rolls as an appetizer, so they requested three orders for the table. The house special rolls had been nothing short of perfection: crisp, fresh, shredded vegetables ever so lightly seasoned with a soy ginger infusion; rice wrappers that were moist, not phlegmy; and a small, succulent piece of shrimp at the center, just enough to tease the palate and steer the brain toward addiction.

Before they left the restaurant, Lynda had asked for two orders of the spring rolls to go. The following day was Friday, and she needed to hole herself up in her comfortable West Village apartment the entire day. The spring rolls would help her get through the long hours of reading through ridiculous pitches and abysmally written query letters as she searched for that one tiny pearl in an ocean of clams. But would the rolls keep a full day, without becoming soggy or dissolving into a green puddle reminiscent of toilet bowl cleaner? This was the question occupying Lynda’s mind as she traveled on the elevator to 458 West 15th Street, Apartment 19D: the 1,500 square feet she called home and office, cave and war room, haven and prison. With the need to keep her spring rolls fresh at the forefront of Lynda’s mind, the Goth girl didn’t stand a chance of attracting her notice.

Lynda unlocked the two locks and the deadbolt, tossed her bag onto the coffee table, and made for the kitchen. After she’d sealed the spring rolls into an airtight container, she’d check her email, call her boyfriend (even though he preferred texting after 10 p.m.), and tune into The Kept Househusbands of Omaha, a satire that most of America hadn’t yet realized was a satire.

As Lynda rummaged through the cabinets, the horrible reality struck her. April has all my Tupperware. Of course April – dear, sweet, addle-headed April – would borrow Lynda’s airtight containers (ostensibly for use at a party to which Lynda had not been invited) and then neglect to return them in a timely fashion. Lynda could picture April sitting in her spacious, rent-controlled apartment on West 22nd Street, surrounded by other people’s Tupperware and chortling evilly.

West 22nd – it was only seven blocks. Not that far to walk, really, and she knew April would be at home, because it was a weeknight and April needed a good night’s sleep in order to be two hours late for work the following day. If she ran up to April’s place now, she could catch April before she took off her Spanx and downed her nightly Klonopin.

Lynda looked at her watch: 10:58. Why not? She was a New Yorker, she didn’t have to report in to an office in the morning, and – most of all – she wanted those spring rolls to be fresh at lunchtime. She grabbed her handbag, locked the door behind her, took the elevator to the sumptuously appointed lobby, and began her trek into Chelsea. Spring was almost, but not quite, in the air, and Lynda found herself battling an unfortunate southbound wind as she fought her way north through the seas of young people. When she’d first moved to the neighborhood, back in the 80s, she’d taken pleasure in this particular stretch of Fifth Avenue. Now, sadly, there was little joy left. The downscale boutiques, delicatessens, and hardware stores had been replaced by the harshly lit marquees of global (that is to say, soulless) brands. Two types of people populated those storefronts: underpaid youngsters who lived six to a room in the far reaches of Queens, and the children of the international elite who saw New York City as their playground and shopping center.

“Hi, Ms. Connor.” Fabio rushed to open the door for Lynda. “Your timing is great. Ms. Showers just got in a little while ago. I’ll tell her you’re coming up.”

“No need, Fabio. I just have to pick up” – she didn’t want to say my Tupperware, which might make her seem oldish, unhip – “a few things. I’ll only be a minute.”

Fabio nodded as Lynda climbed the stairs to the third floor (infinitely preferable to waiting an eternity for that rickety, useless elevator). As she hauled open the heavy fire door to enter the corridor, she was surprised to see April’s apartment door cracked open. Usually April was just the tiniest bit obsessive about keeping that apartment sealed as tight as Fort Knox; but perhaps the Moulin de Gasse “Guilhem” Rosé had made her lose some of her inhibitions.

Lynda stuck her head in the door. “Ape? It’s me. Ape. April. Where are you?”

A light emanated from underneath April’s bedroom door. Perhaps April was in there, iPod earbuds firmly implanted in her ears, dancing to Zumba music? Yes, that had to be what April was doing. Meanwhile, anyone could have strolled into April’s apartment and made off with her crystal. But would Lynda lecture? She would not.

Lynda grabbed the bedroom doorknob, gave it a twist, and pushed the door open. It took a moment for her brain to register what her eyes saw. April sat trussed to a fluffy pink chair, a gag in her mouth and a wild expression in her eyes. A white-faced, Goth-looking gal pointed the barrel of a gun at Lynda’s face.

“Hello, Ms. Connor. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were following me. Did you get the mug I sent you? That thing cost me a lot of money, you know. And you didn’t even bother to say thank you. Why don’t you take off your jacket and stay a while?”

 

Living the Life of Jack Taylor

Fans of the hardboiled mystery likely know Ken Bruen and his conflicted hero, Jack Taylor, who operates out of Galway, Ireland. These books are true noir, and I’ve followed the series for years. I have the latest, Purgatory, on my to-be-read pile.

One of the things at which I always marvel in these books is the way Jack Taylor gets beaten, maimed, and pummeled, yet somehow manages to keep getting out of bed in the morning. I’m reminded of the classic Chumbawumba song, “Tubthumping,” with its refrain, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down … I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” (repeat 40 more times).

I now understand Jack Taylor better. Last week I was doing a lot of work in my backyard: painting, raking, and so forth. I ended up with big blisters on my hands; everyone thinks they are cigarette burns.  Then, a few days ago, I took a spill off my bike that sent me flying head over heels. Tucking and rolling limited some damage, but I ended up bruised, contused, and black-and-blue pretty much from head to toe. The day after, I looked in the mirror and thought “Holy Moses! I look like Jack Taylor.” I’d post a picture, but I look like a prisoner who has been beaten by some particularly brutal guards, and it’s not a look that works particularly well for me….

Is this a case of life imitating art? I’m on the mend and doing fine, but this experience is giving me even more respect for Jack Taylor and the brutalities he endures in each book of the series.  

 

 

The Printed Word Is Alive and Well

Yesterday I was at BookCon/Book Expo America at the Jacob Javits Center (home of the $12.50 hamburger and $4.65 bottle of Snapple).  

You hear so much about the “death” of books. “Everything is going electronic,” they say, and I have read research reporting that many novels are now purchased for e-readers, such as the Kindle, iPad, and so on (rather than in hard copy). I’m not really a Kindle person myself, but I think the whole job of the publishing business is to get books to readers in whichever format they prefer. And there’s no denying that the prices of e-books make more books more affordable to more people; and how can that be a bad thing?

But after attending BookCon, I can report that the printed word is alive and well. The Javits Center was filled with more books than the human mind can take in (and there were e-book stations, too; these seemed to be significantly less popular). The attendees were book lovers of all ages, and it was a real treat to see the many teenagers (and younger) who were like kids in a candy store. The place was also packed with people, all of which leads me to believe that there’s still a strong love of the printed book, and that it won’t be going away any time soon.  

Some of the book signing lines went on for what seemed like miles. I was curious as to who was generating that sort of interest – and both times, it was Hollywood people who had written books. One was Cary Elwes, who had written a memoir about the film The Princess Bride. The other was Danielle Fishel from a TV series, Boy Meets World.  This put me in mind of a marketing idea – maybe publishers should start advertising their other books in the back pages of these celebrity biographies. I for one wouldn’t mind free-riding on the coattails of a movie star.