The Rockaway Irregular
Banging away at my computer keyboard the other day, as I am wont to do most days, the phone rang and I grabbed it. The voice on the other end said "Hey, Stu, just checking in, how're things going?"
It was my old pal Tom Lynch, Rockaway sailing enthusiast and president of the Rockaway Republicans. Tom, who switched his party affiliation after 9/11 to found Rockaway's one and only Republican club, is the peninsula's very own Mr. Republican. You can't even imagine Republicans in Rockaway without him. He led the insurgency that ultimately forced Queens County GOP leader, Serf Maltese, to step down, and spearheaded the restoration of Rockaway's influence in the 23rd AD's GOP when he fought to replace the previous district leaders with Ozone Park ally Eric Ulrich and Breezy Point-based community activist Jane Deacy. Acouple of weeks ago Tom was finally honored for all his hard work and success as an organizer and motivator by the Angelo Graci Republican Club in Ozone Park. Unfortunately, I missed it.
"So what's up, Tom?" I said, feeling a bit guilty about missing the lunch in his honor and thinking of all the stuff I had on my computer and really had to get back to.
"Saw your piece last week in The Wave," he said. A pause, then, "It was alright." He was referring to my article about our upcoming Literary Arts and Film Festival. He was the guy I wrote about in that piece, the guy moaning that I was spending too much time writing about the Festival.
"Glad you liked it," I said cautiously. "You know that was you I quoted in the piece . . . but I didn't want to use your name . . . didn't know if you'd mind."
"Was it?" he asked. "Well you could have . . . I don't care. But . . ."
"Yes?" I said, reacting to the tone in his voice. "What's the matter?"
"Well your article didn't really say all that much. I still don't know why people like me should go to that festival you're doing."
"I thought I'd done a pretty good job," I said, perhaps too defensively. "I wrote all about what was happening, you know, that we're having over 40 writers doing panel discussions and book signings, plus refreshments and live music with disc jockey Pete Fornatale, and poetry readings, and kids' activities, and free movies in the evenings before and after. Where can you go to the movies in Rockaway these days, free or not? And where can you even buy books around here? There isn't a single bookstore on the whole peninsula!"
"I know, I know," Tom admitted, "but you gotta tell people what they're gonna see if you want them to come by. Not everyone wants to buy books. And people don't just go to any movie. They want to know what's playing and why they should get up off their duffs and run over to Fort Tilden to see movies when they could just as easily sit home and watch cable."
"Well, you can't see these movies on cable," I said. "And there's lots of stuff going on throughout the day. Sunday morning, starting at 10:30 a.m., we have two early-bird discussions, one about health and wellness and staying young and the other a workshop with writer Carol Hoenig, an iUniverse STAR author, for aspiring writers to discuss how to break into the field . . . you know, how to get published."
"Oh," Tom said with a non-committal grunt. I seemed to be losing him.
"At 11:30," I went on, "local thriller writer Tom O'Callaghan will lead a panel of mystery and suspense writers, moderated by novelist Jill Eisenstadt, herself a former Rockawayite. At the same time, Dan Guarino, a Broad Channel artist and writer, will lead another group discussing books which meld words with images. Dan and his wife Liz have a new book coming out called Broad Channel: Images of America (Arcadia). They'll be joined by Ben Gibberd of Brooklyn who writes about New York's many waterways (New York Waters, Globe Pequot) and New Jersey food writer and photographer Brian Yarvin who's returning for a second year. How's that grab you, Tom?"
"A little better," he agreed.
I breathed out.
"Then at 12:30 p.m.," I went on, "we're giving awards to the winners of our Rockaway-wide student writing competition. Since it's lunchtime, people will be able to get sushi and other seafood at the tent set up for the day by Belle Harbor's Rockaway Seafood Restaurant. That's where the musicians will be playing, and the poets and other performers will be doing readings, too." I paused, anxious to see if I'd struck a chord with Tom.
Only heavy breathing. He must have a cold, I thought. "Well, what do you think?" I asked finally.
"What comes next?"
"Two panels of contemporary writers and a pair of historical fiction authors and a local journalism panel consisting of the editor from this paper and the Rockaway Point News, and some columnists and reporters," I rattled off, starting to get a little hoarse.
"Now that's interesting," he admitted. "I'd like to hear that one and even ask a few questions, like how The Wave figures they can defend the way they cover events out here!"
Ignoring that, I added, "Irish novelist Tom Phelan will also be here to talk about his books set in early twentieth century Ireland. And we have a panel of writers who contributed to the Queens Noir anthology (Akashic), lots of dark and macabre tales set in Queens, including one set in Rockaway! And in the late afternoon a copyright attorney will give a presentation on the finer points of copyright law, the kind of thing writers need to know." I paused. Had I reached him?
"Okay, but what about the movies?" he asked.
"Saturday night and Sunday night," I replied. "The main event's Saturday evening: Brett Morgen's THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, a really clever documentary about the producer of CHINATOWN and THE GODFATHER. Morgen's a big time filmmaker who recently relocated to Rockaway and is supporting our effort to initiate a film festival out here. Last year he let us screen a clip from his CHICAGO 10, which opened the Sundance Festival. The feature before Morgen's is a documentary about artists who fought in World War II and after his we're screening THE JEWISH BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME."
Tom was quiet and I continued speaking. "On Sunday night, the main feature is Debra Eisenstadt's THE LIMBO ROOM, a story about actors stuck in a sexual and professional rut, trying to break out and get on with their lives and careers. Local filmmakers Kevin Breslin and Robert Sarnoff will lead off the evening with two shorts and . . ."
"Alright, alright," Tom said at last, "I didn't call to get the whole press release. I just wanted to touch base."
"Oh," I said, disappointed. I was just warming up.
"Save it for the paper," he added.
"So you'll be there then?" I asked hopefully.
"Depends," he said.
"On what else you put in the paper between now and June," he said. ". . . and on what the sailing weather's gonna be like, of course."