"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Breathing Room

I crossed Broadway in the middle of 13th and 14th street last night, moving from the west side of the street to the east. I had the light, and as I looked to my left, I saw that the street was clear of any vehicles. I love the fleeting sense of room that you find in New York as traffic sits at a red light. It doesn’t last long, less than a minute I’m sure. At first it feels empty and then slowly, the momentum builds up again and then whoosh, the action is back.


But for a brief moment, the buzz of cars and buses and trucks and bikes, comes to a halt, and there is nothing but space. Freedom and space. It is something so routine in daily life here in New York that I often don’t register it, but even subconsciously, it feels like a small treat.

the strand

I went to Forbidden Planet to pick up some Christmas gifts–original Star Wars action figures–for my nephews and then, with some time to kill before I met a friend for dinner, went to the Strand to browse. I haven’t been reading much baseball literature these days, but I found myself in the basement anyway, looking at the sports books. And guess what? There on the shelves, near the Roger Angell books and Allen Barra’s Yogi Berra biography were two copies of the book I wrote about Curt Flood. And they weren’t even dirt cheap at ten bucks a pop.

Well, to me, this is a milestone of sorts because I’ve been introduced to so many great books through used book stores. I know it is a backward thing to wish for–most writers hope to be on the best-seller list, and belive me, I’m no exception–but still, it was a satisfying moment.

I don’t think back on the Flood book much these days. It was something I did and now it seems like it all happened a long time ago. I’m proud of it, of course, but it’s not something I identify with too tough. I did it, it’s out there in the world, and now, I’m on to the next thing. But to see it sitting there on the shelves I’ve patrolled all these years, well, that was as sweet a Christmas gift as I could ever ask for.

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1 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 11, 2009 10:53 am

The Strand is one of my favorite places in the whole city, I can spend hours in there just happily wandering. I've definitely gotten my fair share of random baseball books in that basement...like the one I'm reading right now, "Where They Ain't" about the old Orioles of Willie Keeler and John McGraw. Great stuff.

I do miss the annex that used to be down Fulton though, near my office, wasted many a lunch hour over there.

2 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 11, 2009 11:14 am

I cross Lexington and Park Avenue at about 5AM, so the streets are usually empty. It is an impressive sight to look down Park Avenue at an empty roadway leading to the MetLife (PanAm) building just before sunrise.

I had a similar book store experience recently. I was killing some time in Borders and happened past the Best Sportswriting anthology with Todd Drew's piece. It felt like picking up something written by a friend.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 11, 2009 11:25 am

The fact that Todd's story ends the book is just so freakin' sweet.

4 edoubletrouble   ~  Dec 11, 2009 11:58 am

you da man

5 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:01 pm

I LOVE the Strand! I remember years ago I got a chance to speak with one of my heroes, KRS-ONE and we mentioned some books that I should look into; I asked him where would be a good place to look for some of them which I knew were obscure and the first thing he said, almost with stars in his eyes, was the Strand.

Easy to get lost in, but that's the best part; you'll find books you weren't even looking for at first and you'll find supplements to books you were. Of course they don't have EVERYTHING, but I'm not looking for first editions most of the time anyway (if I were, I think I'd check out brother unmoderated first >;)

6 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:02 pm

HE mentioned, I should say. If I already knew, I wouldn't have asked >;)

7 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:07 pm

The Strand has changed a good deal. Now, it is far easier to navigate. The stairs are better, there is even an elevator, and you don't need to check your bags anymore. What there is not, generally-speaking, are real bargains. I don't think it is an ideal store if you are looking for a specific old book but it is still great for bumping into things you weren't looking for, as Will says.

8 Ben   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:07 pm

Sweet Arse. Merry Christmas.

9 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:17 pm

Ah the Strand .... one of the unique NY experiences still around. There is the Strand annex also, down by South Street.

I thought Forbidden Planet had closed ... who knew?


This is a (not Bartolo) Colon update:


(and the crowd goes wild!) :-)

We now return you to your regular Hot Stove discussion, already in progress.

10 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:18 pm

If you don't mind paying through the nose, check our ALIBRIS.com for rare/old books.

11 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:21 pm

I buy many used books on line now, but bookstores are like the print edition of the baseball encyclopedia--they allowed you to stumble onto things you otherwise wouldn't have thought of.

Good news, D!

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 11, 2009 12:39 pm

To those of you of the Jewish persuasion:

13 RagingTartabull   ~  Dec 11, 2009 1:01 pm

[9] the Annex is gone, they lost their lease last summer. Its a "Lot Less" now...depressing

14 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 11, 2009 1:04 pm


Oh ... bummer. I used to work right down the block from them .... great lunch-time browsing spot.

15 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2009 1:34 pm

[0] Dude, you haven't arrived until you've made the used book pile.
Millions of writers never get there.

16 ms october   ~  Dec 11, 2009 3:34 pm

nice alex. that must be really a really cool experience.
it's really cool that your book is still living in its second and third life.

when traffic gets blocked off the side streets in the evening rush it is a similar eerie peacefulness.

[2] good lord william, what are you doing in the city that early?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver