Empire State Days III
–Free eBook for Monologging Followers & Book Tour Reflections by Jeffrey F. Barken–
Weekdays, after work, I steer through the summer haze awaiting the dim light before sunset. Then, sirens announce the “Golden Hour Rush,” witching twilight when New Yorkers seek books.
Since bringing All the Lonely Boys in New York out in June, I’ve been doing circles around Bryant Park, the trek downtown past Madison, Union and Washington Square. I ride the A train home.
“Bet you enjoy a good novel now and again,” I say, introducing myself to the folks seated on benches. On a permanent book tour, I’ve been doing this pitch a long time already, starting back in Israel, now in New York…
There are always some who say, “no,” and shoo me away, but most will at least take a look.
Yesterday afternoon, I tried my luck in Central Park. There’s a world a-spin in the wonderland. Nostalgic on a Friday, queue the blues from last summer, dreaming hours—timeless walks.
Surprise! The first person I asked had already read the book. “Jeffrey Barken?” she placed me. The woman’s name was Robin. I remembered her now. She said the book made her think about what happens to people in seclusion, how badly we’ll seek whatever company is the first to make us feel at home. “Even on the fringes,” she said, suggesting there’s shameful comfort when men and women share terror as a group.
I got over my embarrassment for not immediately recognizing the stranger. Tell you the truth; her name did ring a bell. I even remember where we were sitting when I sold her the book. That table east of the summer stage, down from Holden’s merry-go-round, where Edith Piaf and Billie Holliday set the mood.
The day we’d met, I asked Robin, “Do you spell it with a Y.” I wanted to make sure before I signed her book.
We both agreed the city gets small. She asked some questions about the collaborative aspects of Monologging. She’d found the concept of an illustrated novel and Diana Muller’s illustrations very engaging. I thanked her for her feedback and asked her to write a review. She promised she would but warned she’s busy. Robin is working three different jobs to stay afloat…
At last we parted, still strangers, but amused by chance and aware we’re fated to meet more than once.
As I walked to Strawberry Fields, I conjured Professor Murphy’s plot. In All the Lonely Boys in New York, my villain tests the world’s devotion to John Lennon and his lot. Asking: “Do we still believe the Beatles?” he plans bloodshed in the park. I thought of those journalists killed this week. It’s always the ones singing; “all you need is love…” whose happiness meets the warm gun.
I sat down and had my lunch across from the “IMAGINE” mosaic. The guitarists we’re arguing over who had the right to play the shift. They snickered, bitterly aware their scene couldn’t persist without drawing scorn.
“Good, it’s this guy,” a roller-blader said, sitting down next to me when the music resumed “The other one always plays Paul McCartney songs,” he explained. I wondered why the Grump didn’t lower his voice when he criticized the musicians. He was awfully loud.
The roller-blader unfastened his helmet and stretched his leg. I ignored him and ate my plum. Tourists were posing for the classic New York City photo-op: the “meditation shot” filmed in front of the pop culture shrine where the roses strew.
The guitarist sang “Imagine” in a voice that didn’t carry, but still amused. I paid the man a dollar for playing while I ate, then carried on. I walked past the sprinklers, down the Poet’s Walk, where tourists sat for caricatures, and others listened to the jazzman’s sax. I showed the book to an older man. He said he’d left his wallet at home for his stroll, but that he’d do more than buy the book. He asked for my email and promised to send a link.
I thanked him. We parted. Further down the path I sold a book to a girl who used to work for Lehman Brothers. We talked about the crash in 2008. How so many of us lost a year when there were no jobs and no credit. Many of us still lament all that energy gone to waste.
“Thank you, enjoy,” I said a cordial goodbye.
“Good luck,” she answered.
I walked down the steps toward the lake where there’s always a wedding staged. One of those dream girls dressed in white lace and frills hugged her man while the cameras flashed another fairy tale memory. Behind them, a circus act was starting up. A starry-dressed man blew big bubbles; his hair was wild. I blinked, and it was summer, 2008 again. I’ll never forget the day I jammed banjo with that drummer in front of Bethesda Fountain, the kids swinging hula-hoops, that first dollar I made having fun.
“When you play the park, you’re paid to practice,” the busking veteran told me after our show. “Bring your best, try your worst.”
Onward. I passed the pond where the model boats sail, and the Mad Hatter laughs, stopping short of the Met.
“Few parks are perfect,” I remembered prose. “Yet I’ve always felt I could find the whole world inside Central Park…” –Myles wanders here, pg. 27. I remembered the scene, I could relive the novel, but I wasn’t Myles. I’m never Myles anymore.
I’m three months into the tour. The book is out there now; there’s nothing I can do besides quote Salinger. “Tell anybody anything and you start missing everybody.” That’s why All the Lonely Boys in New York is a free eBook this weekend. If you enjoy a good novel now and again, please have a look, download, and share.
Post Photos by Diana Muller
Click Below to Read More About the Making of All the Lonely Boys in New York and the Online Collaborative Literary Journal, Monologging.org
Empire State Days II