Gypsies of Coney Island ~ the Mood Seers.


Angel Snake GirlMy chiefest Coney Island thrill was the characters around every corner, off any curb, or smack in front of you demanding explanations,  spare change,  a kiss, or a shot at their gaming booths for 2 bits.  I flesh them out in my novel NOISE….Satellite Bob, the loony tunes ice cream thrower. Oklahoma Mary and Just Plain Mary at the ticket booths. Louisa running the carousel weepy redeyed at the chance her husband wasn’t coming back (a mafia hit-man, she never knew). Jazz and his Penny Arcade, his dreams of Circus Circus Vegas. Nelson who did stand up ballet on speeding Go Karts steering with his knees at 25 mph. People at the end of their rope who didn’t know it, or did too keenly and wore a dangerous edge.  Bums and heroes, the shifty and hallucinating, hard workers at the start of something big, romance in the air.  And the hopeless souls given up on endless tries, embracing failure.

And then there were the gypsies.  Brooklyn born but east Europe swathed in brocades and satins and velvets and fringes, wheels and deals, alert to every shift in the breeze, and combat ready.  They occupied four trailers at the far reaches, the empty lot at the border of the amusement park.  There was one well heeled, oiled up, Hollywood camera ready gorgeous guy who strutted his stuff in black satin shirts and slacks, embroidered cowboy boots, in charge of myriad women and children under his protective wing and not concealed .45 on his hip. He ran the store fronts where fortunes were told and taken in equal measure. 

One day he called me over to paint a sign on their window.  He told me what he wanted, I quoted a price, he said go to it, and I laid on.  The door was open to hot summers.  Inside, curtains were strung uneasily across parts of the room, saturated in incense.   Costly consultations got you into a private back space of more curtains, a candle or two,  a card table covered with a tapestry, a crystal ball, and one of the highly made up, bejeweled, ebony tressed, black-eyed fortune teller women.  I tried not to listen. Curiosity got the better of me. 

After two days of painting I heard a pattern in the soft-spoken low down that filled the room with hope, warnings, and tales of unimaginable prosperity. Change. Change was afoot.  Change was guaranteed.

Which is why I thought to write this out today.  I’ve been in a mood, not yet putting the finger on what’s off in me.  So…..We all go through ups and downs and varying miasma in a life.  I don’t much believe in the trendy business of attention deficit or polar stuff.  To me, that’s the human experience and if we get used to that as normal we can better handle the rises and falls of being alive one day to the next day. 

Back to Brooklyn.  I’d be painting the front window, dodging busy foot traffic along the sidewalk.  I’d hear through the open door, past the thick curtains, those steamy summer days.  I’d hear the gypsy seers absolutely nail the visitor’s travails.  Not by knowing what was wrong with the individual on the opposite chair so much, but by having figured out what was wrong with mankind. 

It went like this.

“You are having trouble with your job.” 

“Someone at work is trying to hurt you.” 

“The person you love has been distant, for the last three days….looking at you funny…making you afraid.”

“You have a terrible pain, right there, for a week now….”

“You want to find new work but nothing seems to be working out right, so much bad luck.” 

“Your landlord is being unkind, threatening.”

“Something is wrong with your car but you don’t know what.” 

“You need money.”


“Good fortune is headed your way….on Tuesday!”  and

“Play the numbers 6 and 17.  You will have good luck.” and

“Tonight…tell her you love her!”

It didn’t hit me til later in my own life that what I overheard in the fortune teller’s decisive proclamations were the universal truths of the trouble with living. The fortune tellers were never wrong. The visitor nodded:  Spot-on ~~~ all of it!  Yes!  You’re right!  Yes!!  How did you know! 

It applies, in varying degrees, to every one of us. 

Whatever we’re facing with waking up or by the time we hit the bed, it’s likely on the gypsy list of prognosis, prospects, and cures.  If we go ahead and solve the car, landlord, job, sweetheart, and pain problems,  well, I guarantee we’ll all have good fortune starting Tuesday.  It’s the way of the world.  Chin up. Damn the torpedoes.


Postscript:  When I was almost through painting the window sign and pictures for the gypsies I was starting to wonder if I’d get cash for my labor.  Indeed, 3 letters short of HAVE YOUR FORTUNE R…., everything else completed and looking rather spectacular, the patriarch appeared, brought out, proudly held up for inspection 2 chickens (alive and squawking)  as my pay. I declined.  I want cash, right now, uh, in case I can’t find you later, thanks ever so.  Possibly not wishing himself bad luck from the unknown powers of the itinerant street painter, he paid me in full and even smiled.  I smiled too.  I not only held the deal, but had the cure to the human condition illustrated before me.  Not bad.  Ah, Coney Island.  Amusement is only a part of you.

top ‘Snake Girl’ photo credit:  Louis Tracciola;

Click here ~ fabulous Tracciola website of old & new NY

The David Mammet Situation


I went to Goddard College in Vermont many years ago. Turns out David Mammet, movie director, and that splendid William Macy, actor, went there too not so many years apart.

I wrote a terrifically good novel called NOISE. The synopsis and part of Chapter 3 are here. I thought wow, if I can get David Mammet to read this, us sharing an alma mater and all, I bet he’d be dying to make it into one fabulous movie and that would change all our lives. I’d get paid a lot for the screen rights, do thousands of paintings for the movie and be hobnobbing with a slew of interesting people in no time at all.

I called the Director/Producers Guild in LA. I’m a member. I got Mammet’s agency. I called the agency. I got Mammet’s agent’s name, phone and email for the assistant to Mammet’s agent.. I emailed one ace damn fine hellova superbo letter to  Mammet’s assistant to Mammet’s agent via the assistant to the assistant who worked for Mammet’s talent agency.

Sweet kid, she said she’d be happy to forward my email to the assistant to Mammet’s agent. What a fabulous ten minutes that all was. I thought this is really incredible. The internet age. I don’t have to make up special stationery and copies and write out addresses and type up inquiries and go to the post office, I’m going to be talking to ol’ David Mammet in a couple of minutes here and he’ll fly up to Big Sur and take a meeting with his old Goddard College writing brilliantly cohort.

It was actually faster than that. Almost as soon as I pressed send on an email thanking the agency assistant for assisting in getting my email to the assistant to the assistant to David Mammet I got an email back!

It said, David is tied up with too many projects now to consider anything new. Good luck elsewhere, David Mammet’s Assistant.

Didn’t anybody notice we both went to the same obscure little peculiar school and shared all kinds of Brooklyn and writing serendipities? I guess not. I thought that the assistant to the assistant likely went to his own little peculiar school where the student body was trained for the very moment they would be sending emails to nettlesome writers with just that kind of phrasing, The big guy has too many projects right now….

When I wrote the book ten years ago I had Kevin Bacon in mind for the lead, I almost wrote it for him and Kyra Sedgewick. I spent a year trying to reach him and gave up. I’ll write about that episode some day, too. NOISE would have changed his life and been the best movie he’d ever done. But there it is. Sometimes there are just too many lions at the gate. Maybe I’ll try William Macy next. Goddard isn’t much in the old boy/girl network department.

The Gallery Bell

The Hawks Perch of Big Sur

Long day yesterday. Around 9 I was starting dinner and glad for the respite from business in the gallery. I was up to the third Poirot mystery on the set of 3 from Big Sur library and looking forward to watching the remarkable Belgium detective do his stuff, all symmetry and little gray cells at work.

I have installed a doorbell on the gallery downstairs that rings upstairs, and a bit of a peculiar contraption that urges visitors to ring if the shop’s closed. PUSH ME printed on a big yellow wooden one-time cart handle, that adjusts to the ringer’s height and predilection. It’s been a delightful solution to painting in the studio and not missing customers.

Around 10pm as Hercule Poirot was solving murders in 1939 near Egypt’s pyramids, that very same bell rang. I trotted out and peered over the balcony.

A fine young man, reveling with buddies at The Maiden Pub next door, glass of beer in hand, wanted to go through the gallery and buy something. Sweet. I went down and opened the doors to him and turned on the lights.

He was all bright-lit himself with cross country adventure, the kind of glow I’ve seen often from voyagers to Big Sur who can’t believe they made it or believe how perfectly wonderful it is. Tall and strapping, looking like transplanted mid-America farm and ranch. A total delight whose name is Dylan. He hadn’t seen his parents for close to a year and his mom was on her way for a visit and he wanted to get her a present and he was up front right away, he had ten bucks for it.

We did some searching and negotiating and came in on budget. I gift-wrapped, we hugged, Dylan returned to the pub, an ebullient spirit of good nature and fine character who is clearly finding answers to his liberating dreams at the blossoming start of youth.

As for this painter, it’s become the kind of experience that never ceases to amaze or sweep me with strong emotion. The pleasures found at the other end of a small red bell on a chunk of yellow wood with PUSH ME writ large on it are awesome and sweet.



This gallery contains 4 photos.

THE HAWKS PERCH Located in Big Sur on California’s central coast where giant redwoods dip their toes into the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach and the air is pungent with bay, acacia, lavender, and fern….the first stop in Big Sur … Continue reading