Five O’Clock World | Was (Not Was)

I used to be the nightlife columnist for a newspaper. The column was called Five O’Clock World, after the old Vogues song. I’ve already explained this a gajillion times, so won’t bore you with the details again. The following is a club report I wrote in 2005. I’m posting it as a tribute to my departed friend, Josh Barber. Cheers, Josh.

Five O’Clock World
Was (Not Was)
Copyright © 2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Old clubs around here never die. It seems they just change names and reopen with different management. Such is the case with a couple of “new” lounges I checked out.

The first was Rusty’s (Wave Ave., Middletown), which in a former incarnation was the popular neighborhood watering hole called Overflo’s.

Though it has changed hands as well as names, everything at Rusty’s seemed comfortably the same on a recent Saturday night: the usual highly animated customers; a local band from the regular rotation; the familiar cheesy decor; the squirming line outside the miniature restroom; the rutted, parked-out parking lot.

As ever, the place was jammed. A cadre of loopettes commandeered the dance floor, boogying manlessly to driving rock‘n’roll and R&B tunes. The band providing them was Smokestack Lightning, the totally awesome project of Jamestown’s Josh Barber. A guitarist who’s a devotee of Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Barber possesses staggering musical ability all his own that belies his tender age (25). Plus he’s really cute, which explains all the chicks.

As it turns out, one critical element of Rusty’s is different. I ordered a straight margarita and received — check it out — a straight margarita. I couldn’t remember the last time a bartender didn’t load up my margarita with ice and other useless crud. Score!

The way Rusty’s is losing money on the bar, you better go before you have to call it “the place that used to be Rusty’s.”

Josh Barber

Josh Barber

***

Being from a land where businesses stubbornly remain in the same families for all eternity, I find it amusing how the natives here describe everything in terms of what it used to be (as in “the place that used to be Overflo’s”). So don’t be surprised when you phone the new club Area Venue (3 River Lane), and the recording assures you “it’s where the back door of Friends used to be.”

Like Rusty’s, Area Venue lived a prior existence (in addition to Friends, apparently) as a place called Area 22. It was bigger then, and its front door on Broadway was easier to find. Area Venue is about half the size of Area 22 and its front door, to be honest, is in an alley. An alley exactly like the one with the bistro where Buffy and Principal Wood battled vampires on their first date.

Spooky? Kind of. But on the plus side, no vampires here yet. And Area Venue’s dance floor is now the perfect size. Its stage is elevated so that overwound drunks can’t slam into the band, only each other, as it should be.

The bar is on sort of a terrace that offers terrific people-watching opps for armchair dancers like me. No margaritas, alas, but you got your beer, wine, champagne, sake, juice, and endless combinations thereof. The bartender is indefatigably cheerful.

It’s all charmingly reminiscent of the punk-era pubs of London, especially the bathrooms. Not only don’t the stalls lock, but they have swinging saloon-style doors — the better to see you with, my dear.

Despite this one drawback (or value add, depending on your perspective), it’s just incomprehensible why a place this awesome is flat empty on a Saturday night.

Remembering the great wriggling hordes at Rusty’s, I ask the bartender whither Area Venue’s. Well, it’s been open for barely a couple of cold, nasty months, she explains, and “we’ve only had our liquor license for two weeks.” Another mitigating factor, she says, is that “people travel in clusters, following ‘their’ bands around. When we get an out-of-town band, it’s tough.” Ah, Newport — every touring band’s dream.

Indeed, the night’s music is provided by a New Jersey group, The Commons. They’re plenty good enough, playing original dance material for their sound check when we walk in at 9:30. They stop playing at 10:15, presumably to wait for more customers to arrive.

Now the band’s at the bar with us, drinking suds and watching “Design on a Dime” on the huge flat screen. (“Here, you hold the remote,” the bartender told me and then promptly regretted it.)

Me, I think an imported band is a fine reason to go anywhere. I hope others cluster on over to Area Venue, because I like this place and want it to stay open, swinging doors and all.

Text, Art & Photo Copyright © 2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

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Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Totally Suck

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

My last post was about self-publishing on Kindle, and Kindle’s mysterious sales ranking system for the million-plus ebooks in its catalog. This post is about why you can ignore it.

I published my novel Dead Spot on Kindle. A colleague asked me why I chose self-publishing, considering that my nonfiction journalism — the kind paid in dollars per word, not pennies — has been published many, many times. (Google me, dogs.) I told her straight up that I’d been hosed enough by literary agents and publishers. (Hey, Syd, Dead Spot is nice but why don’t you write a book just like [title of that week’s NYT’s best seller]?).

Even if I did succeed in getting one of them to publish my novel, establishment publishers are notoriously uninterested in promoting new authors. Odds are my book would be on B&N’s remainder table before the advance cleared, unless I did my own PR. And if I have to do the PR myself, what am I paying them for?

My author friend, the one I was explaining all this to, has published several books the traditional way. She couldn’t argue with my logic.

Here’s the thing: I’m not getting any younger. I have a novel to sell, and I’m through begging pseudo-intellectual snotbags to publish it. Ergo, Kindle. I’ve now sold way more books there than I did (i.e., zero) without it. In that regard, Kindle can be a marvelous thing for authors with marketable product and limited patience.

And not for nothing, but B&N and Borders recently picked up the paperback version of Dead Spot, which I publish myself. So 4Q2, Random House.

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorsed any third-party video advertising that may appear on this blog, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore such crap.

A Great Mystery Solved! | How Kindle Rankings Work

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

One of the great unsolved mysteries of independent publishing (to me, anyway) is Kindle seller rankings. How do they work? Why are they there? What the hell good are they?

I have a rockin’ ebook for sale on Kindle. It’s called Dead Spot.  It’s one of more than a million ebooks Amazon claims to be selling now. So yesterday I sold an ebook. Here’s the kicker. Before the sale, Dead Spot‘s Kindle ranking was around 625,000. After my single-unit sale, it ranked 76,058.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say, “Huh?!?

Obviously, Kindle isn’t selling all that many of its one million-plus ebooks. Last year Amazon boasted it sold 105 ebooks for every 100 dead-trees books — then went on to predict its Kindle-related revenue would represent only 10 percent of total 2012 revenue.

The math here isn’t rocket science. A lot of Kindle books are free or close to it. And a lot of Kindle-related revenue comes from selling $80-$380 Kindle reading devices. Translation: Your life’s work is competing for seller ratings with the 99¢ epulp flooding Kindle’s site and 800-pound literary gorillas like Tim Tebow and the Kardashians.

But there’s a bigger, more troubling equation involved. Those 548,942 Kindle books ranked behind Dead Spot, the ones not lucky enough to have a sale this week — do they all share the same nomimal Kindle rank of, say, 625,000? Or are they being scored by some other method — say, alphabetization? Amazon has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Kindle’s own forums are ablaze with wild conjecture on this very subject. (The reason:  Amazon only promotes best sellers, so authors are obsessed with gaming the ranking system.) One author posted: “I have seen my Amazon ranking for my novel … fluctuate up and down by 10,000 spots without seeing any additional sales.” Another replied: “I think it takes more than 50 sales/day to break the #1000 spot.” Said another: “Since I don’t write about zombies, this is not good!”

Another forum respondent said his ebook always ranks number 1 in Amazon’s King Henry VII historical category, even though it’s a metaphysical fantasy that’s not about Henry VII. He added, “I know an author whose thriller book used to rank #1 in ‘Car Parts’.”

The New York Times ran an article claiming Amazon has traditional publishers in a frenzy, quoting them saying things like “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do” and “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon.” Again I say, huh?

So keep buying Dead Spot, beloved fans. One more sale and it’ll rank … minus-554,985!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Five O’Clock World | Rock ‘n’ Bowl

I used to be the nightlife columnist for a weekly newspaper that was so chaotic, I had a different editor for every column I submitted. In the dictionary, next to the description of “revolving door,” there’s a picture of this place. Fun!

Anyway, the running title of my column was “Five O’Clock World,” and then each piece had a subject-specific title based on a song lyric. A cool musical theme for the club column! Get it?

Unfortunately, only my first editor knew this. I’d dutifully turn in my pieces and every new editor would change the titles without telling me. Then I’d submit invoices referencing what I’d named each piece, except they weren’t named that anymore, and then I had to call and beg for my money because the poor bookkeeper had no idea what was going on, either.

I bagged the gig after getting stiffed a couple of times and the sixth editor called to say he couldn’t wait to meet me. Maybe he meant in the parking lot, on his way out, if I got there fast enough.

The following is one of the “Five O’Clock World” columns I wrote in 2005. It was a blast while it lasted.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Drink‘n’Roll

When I was in high school back in the last millennium, I hung with a bunch of delinquents who loved to go bowling. Actually, it wasn’t the bowling they loved so much as the rental shoes, which they always wore home.

Wondering whether things have changed any with this century’s young fashionistas, I cruised over to the Hi-Way Bowl in Middletown to find out.

Seemed like a pleasant-enough way to spend an evening. Every Saturday night from 8 until 11, the Hi-Way Bowl hosts a thing called Rock‘n’Bowl. I called in advance to get the details.

“It’s a DJ. And music. And a light show. Uh, and bowling,” said whoever answered the phone. There’s a $10 cover, too, but they throw in the shoes.

They also have a bar, which meant everyone would be too sauced to notice what a terrible bowler I am. So off I went.

It took a really long time to find the Hi-Way Bowl. First of all, it’s on a road with no street sign. And the guy on the phone had assured me that “it’s right behind the Ames.” Of course, the Ames is long gone. And natch, the Hi-Way Bowl isn’t on a highway. After driving up and down Route 114 for what seemed like weeks, I finally turned into the Home Depot parking lot on sheer gut instinct. I’ve been told I can smell a bar from the next county.

Sure enough, way behind the big box store and the Holiday Cinema and completely invisible from Route 114 is the Hi-Way Bowl. The parking lot was crammed with cars owned by people whose olfactory powers far exceeded mine.

I wasn’t sure what to expect once I finally got inside, but I figured a bunch of drunks slinging 16-pound balls around had to have some kind of entertainment value. But Rock‘n’Bowl is more than that. Much more.

First of all, there’s disco music and pulsing lights and semi-psychedelic projections on the walls. There’s a really polite, fine-looking hunk who relieves you of your cover money as you stroll in. (“Yes m’am, we do draw regulars on Saturday nights. No m’am, it’s a different crowd from the other times.”) Do people still steal the shoes, I ask? Occasionally, yes.

Sharing the building with the bowling alley are the Oddball Sports Bar and a video-game arcade. The edifice is better known to all and sundry as the “Halls of Balls.” Inside the bowling alley, the music is loud and fast. I’m reminded of marketing studies that proved customers in grocery stores that play up-tempo hits shop faster and spend more than those at stores (like mine) that play Spishak’s Greatest Hits of Plane-Crash Victims. I presume that’s the marketing tack at Rock‘n’Bowl, too, and it’s working. This place has 20 lanes, and they’re really getting down with the bowling here. It’s $3.50 per line. You do the math.

You’re probably way ahead of me here. To my mild disappointment, there was no caveman-like action with bowling balls, nor herds of snickering teens stampeding out with smelly, purloined shoes — just neatly dressed couples in their 20s and 30s, drinking and rolling in a civilized way. But Rock‘n’Bowl fans, I’m told, are eclectic. The Boston Celtics have been known to drop by.

So if it’s a Saturday night and you’ve seen every movie in town, and you’re sick of breathing other people’s cigarette smoke in clubs, and you like to bowl or just like the idea of it, check this out. It’s a great place to go with a bunch of friends. Call it a party and bring your own festive grub. The owners of the movie theater next door are threatening to expand their operation and “upgrade” the Hi-Way Bowl out of existence. Go while you still can.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

DEAD SPOT on AmazonSydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Halloween Drinks

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

My last blog about cheap wine was such a hit, I’ve decided to expand the theme. Writers unite! Nothing beats chugging festive Halloween toddies while hoovering candy and playing strip Twister instead of answering the doorbell. So here they are, my cherished family recipes stolen from all over the Web! Cheers!

VAMPIRE
1 oz raspberry liqueur
1 oz vodka
1 oz cranberry juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice. Serve in highball glasses.

BRAIN HEMORRHAGE
1 oz peach schnapps
1 tsp Bailey’s Irish cream
1/2 tsp grenadine

Pour the peach schnapps, then (slowly) the Irish cream, then the grenadine. Do not mix anything. The creme will settle at the bottom, giving the appearance of guts. Tasty!

BANSHEE
1 oz white creme de cacao
1 oz creme de banana
1 oz cream

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake. Strain into a cocktail glass or shot glasses.

RED ZOMBIE
3 dashes tabasco sauce
3 oz tomato juice
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 lychee nuts
2 large green olives
1-1/2 oz vodka
1 tsp barbecue sauce
1 stick celery
1 pinch celery seeds
1 squirt lemon juice
1 pinch pepper
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp chipotle peppers, finely chopped
1/2 oz horseradish, finely grated

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass. Cut the end of a celery stalk of so it measures 5-6 inches long, and split it lengthwise. Slide the olives into two lychee fruits to make eye balls. Push the celery stick through both, and lay across the rim of the glass as garnish.

PUMPKIN MARGARITA
2 oz tequila
1 oz lemon/lime mix (or real lime juice)
1 splash pumpkin puree

Rim a cocktail glass with lime juice. Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

PUMPKIN PUNCH


1 large cleaned-out pumpkin
1 part apple cider
2 parts ginger ale
1 part rum
Combine liquid ingredients and serve in the pumpkin, with dry ice.

ALICE IN NIGHTMARELAND
1 part blue Curacao
1 part Jagermeister
1 part Kahlua

Pour ingredients into a shot glass. Serve.

BLOOD
1 oz bourbon
1/2 oz lime juice
1 tsp tequila
tomato juice

Pour all ingredients except tequila into a Collins glass, over ice. Mostly fill the glass with tomato juice, then add the tequila.

GANGRENE
2 oz green creme de menthe
1-1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz tequila
1 tbsp blackberry brandy

Mix the ingredients and pour into an old fashioned or rock glass filled with ice.

FESTERING BOIL


1-1/2 oz Jagermeister
1/2 oz dry gin
1/2 oz vodka
2 cocktail onions

In a highball glass, pour over ice and stir. Add onion.

BEETLE JUICE
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz melon liqueur
1/2 oz blue Curacao
1/2 oz raspberry schnapps
1/2 oz cranberry juice
Sour mix
Pineapple spear and one cherry

Fill a Collins or other tall glass with ice. Pour the vodka on the bottom. Then fill the glass 3/4 full with sour mix. Pour in the rest of the ingredients one at a time. Do not stir. Garnish with pineapple spear and cherry

BLEEDING HEART MARTINI
2 oz dry vermouth
8 oz gin
Ice cubes
4 pickled baby beets, each placed on a cocktail skewer

Serves 4. Chill 4 martini glasses. Add the vermouth, dividing evenly; swirl to coat the glasses, then pour out. Add gin to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled; divide among the glasses. Garnish each with a skewered pickled baby beet.

PINA GHOULADA
20 oz pineapple juice
1 can cream of coconut (15 oz)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup orange juice
10 oz rum

Whisk together pineapple juice, cream of coconut, heavy cream, orange juice and rum. Place 2-1/2 cups of ice in a blender, then and add 1 cup of the drink mixture. Blend until smooth, and pour into prepared glasses (see below). If mixture is too thick, add more pineapple juice before serving. Repeat process with remaining ice and mixture.

For the “BLOOD RIM” (a Martha Stewart recipe, natch):
3 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp red food coloring

Pour the corn syrup in a shallow bowl. Dip a toothpick into the food coloring, and stir a very small amount into the syrup to combine. Holding a glass by the stem, dip the rim into the syrup mixture and turn the glass, coating the entire rim. Turn the glass upright and allow the mixture to drip down the sides. Repeat for each glass.

For the EYEBALL GARNISH:
canned lychee in syrup, drained
strawberry (or other red-colored) preserves
blueberries

Dry a lychee and fill the cavity with red preserves. Insert a blueberry, blossom end facing out. Spear with a toothpick or cocktail skewer.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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Wine Snobism (and how to defeat it)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

People often ask me: What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Why, the drinking, of course! Not much point in one without the other.

Besides, there’s nothing else to do around here except ride my bike to my fave beach bar, eat something I shouldn’t, drink margaritas and laugh at drunken tourists. If I’m on deadline or the weather sucks, I drive my cute little sports car to the local package store. Nothing fancy about it, just a reliable source of cheap and cheerful table wine.

The only other thing to do around here is watch movies. Remember Sideways? When that was the hot satellite flick, every booze store in the state was invaded by armies of toothless goobers who’d only ever drunk Bud until the week before, and now were overnight experts on pinot noir — experts driven to educate me about a wine I don’t particularly like. Thanks, Fox.

So because of one dumbass movie, giant islands of pinot noir miraculously replaced everything I went to my package store for. Keg of tequila for mixers? Problem. Six-packs of Heineken? Problem. Obscure sub-par pinot noir from Albania? How many truckloads you want?

“Where’s the tequila?” I asked the store owner. “All the agave crops — they was wiped out by droughts!” he lied. “Can’t get tequila no more.”

Why can’t there be a movie about Jimmy Choo, or goat cheese, so I can walk into any store in this backwater and get THAT?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll drink an expensive pinot noir, if someone else pays for it. I do have a refined palette — we don’t drink swill here at Casa Loco. That’s for cooking (not my department). But I’ll openly drink jug wine or stuff from a box with a spout, if it tastes okay. That’s why, when some tractor jockey tries to lecture me on fine bordeaux, I just run away with my 2-for-1 malbecs, giggling hysterically.

I just loves me some good wine. Hate wine snobs.

I’m no expert, but I used to do a lot of wine reading back in ye olden days when I made way more money and blew much of it on choice vino. I lived in a place then where that was easy to do. Plus my father-in-law who was in the business frequently laid $100 bottles of divine barolo on us. I can still taste them. A good thing, because I’ll never drink that again. I could afford nebbiolo now, which is to barolo what weasel is to ermine (i.e., same thing, different season), but nebbiolo isn’t sold here in Hooterville and never will be.

Wine is actually a very interesting subject. I spent many joyful hours talking to my father-in-law and assorted New York City wine purveyors about, you know, wine stuff. I heard awesome gossip. Like, many fabulous Australian wines were in fact South African, back during the apartheid boycotts when most countries wouldn’t buy South Africa’s pencils (or anything else). And the carmenere grape was considered extinct until a shitload of it was discovered in a South American merlot field in the 1990s, and now it’s the signature wine of Chile. And the Italians, legendarily prolific wine producers, didn’t export any of it ever until the 1980s. Why? Because they drank it all.

I am not making this up. But better to drink wine than talk about it. And as far as I’m concerned, heaven is a great $7 bottle of wine. Yes, they do exist, and rooting them out is half the fun. The bargain wines of Spain and Portugal are highly underrated. (Try a dao. Do it today!)

Cabriz Dao

Cabriz Dao

I’ve never had bad cheap Argentine or Chilean wine, either, or Oregon or Washington State wine. And if you’re a fan of the (ridiculously overpriced) California zinfandels, try an Italian primitivo. Same grape, lower price point. Do you like beer but must impress your snotty friends? One word: gewurztraminer. Hard to say, easy to drink with its upscale lager-like flavor.

Here are some tasty cheap wines ($10 and under) currently making me very happy. Cheers!

Foral de Lisboa (Portugal – castelao, touriga franca, syrah)
Palo Alto Reserve (Chile – cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, syrah)
Los Dos (Spain – syrah, grenache)
Mandra Rossa Fiano (Sicily)
Nativa Terra Reserva Carmenere (Chile)
Castello Monaci Piluna Primitivo (Italy)
Lamarca Prosecco (Italy – okay, it’s $13, but it’s sparkling, dammit!)
Le Grand Noir GSM (France – grenache, shiraz, mourvedre)
Casillero del Diablo Malbec (Chile)
Natura Malbec (Chile – organic)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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DEAD SPOT now available in paperback!

Good news, everyone. My bangin’ novel DEAD SPOT is now available in paperback!

Order it today from Amazon or my website.

Ready to ship! You’ll receive a brand new, perfect bound 5.5″x8.5″ paperback book, professionally printed with snazzy laminated color cover. Want multiples? No problemo — available with shipping discount if you order from my website!

Bonus: I’ll personally autograph your copy on request!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER
Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorsed any third-party video advertising that may appear on this blog, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.