Friday, May 10, 2013

Steven Schindler Pens Sequel 10-years Later - Find out what Happened to the Sewer Balls...

Whiffle Ball in Antique Sewer Grate
Whiffle Ball in Antique Sewer Grate 
"Out of the stickball games, the stolen-beer parties in the stands, the kissing of bubble gum flavored lips, and the slingshot fights, emerged the bonds that allowed us to weather the storms of real life with our friends..."
"But isn't that really what the zeitgeist of the time was? Experimenting, merely for the sake of it? Maybe the song was saying...Get back to doing something worthwhile...I also know that deep in my subconscious...there are secret memories of important things aching to be resurrected to make sense of the now.
"I sat in the church parking lot in an old beater, an '89 Toyota borrowed from my niece, looking at my name tag. In large letters it read VINNY SCHMIDT, and underneath in smaller letters, Sewer Balls. I folded it in half, creating a crease, tore off the bottom, leaving only my name, and stuck it onto the outside pocket of my just purchased thirty-nine dollar blazer. I wasn't in the mood for shameless self-promotion. I just wanted to meet some old friends. And maybe find a lost one.
"It would be the first Presentation Grammar school reunion I attended in my old Bronx neighborhood...
"Needless to say, people were even more shocked when I told them that I still kept in touch with some guys who were with me on the very first rainy September morning that we crammed into a classroom with sixty or so other first graders, and sat stunned at the sight of Sister Joan clad in black from head to toe...
"In my experience, Catholics in New York City tend to identify more with their parish than they do with any other geographic classification. No matter where you find yourself living, time after time, you find yourself sitting in the same pews, ritually celebrating or mourning the same life events that continue to bring you and your fellow parishioners together since the days when you laid down in the pew sucking your thumb with your head in your mother's lap as you napped. Baptisms, weddings, graduations, and more often that not, funerals still bring together the legions of kids who have since scattered across the suburbs of New York, as well as across the globe...
"I'm sure some people at the reunion will think that because I sold a few thousand books, and used to work in television, that I'm doing really well...
The Last Sewer Ball

By Steven Schindler

Perhaps at an age chosen by happenstance there is a certain melancholy about a man who stops to look back to his youth. To remember happy days, friends, and especially that best friend from that time. Can he go back to those times, can he find that best friend with whom he can share again... That's especially important if you have lost your family, your job, and must move into your sister's basement room in order to have a place to live... Until you can get established again..
In a 10-year sequel to Steven Schindler's first cult classic novel, Sewer Balls, Vinny, the young boy who trustingly was hung into the sewers while his best friend, Whitey tightly held on to his feet, maneuvering him to that grimy, greasy, slimy ball that somebody else had left there, probably by rich kids who would just get another, is back. When you are poor and have no ball, you are willing to get a little dirty in order to clean that ball up and provide the means to play stick ball in the Bronx streets, the only playground that the kids that lived there had ever known... Yes, Vinny is back and looking for Whitey...

But there is something mysterious--people are not willing to talk much about Whitey. Is he alive, is he dead? Vinny is getting so many different stories that he arrives at only one conclusion... He was going to learn the truth! So, of course, he visited the Parish church...

"His cassock was a little bit short, revealing his black-soled low black Converse All Stars tennis shoes. Father O. guided his altar girls with graceful hand gestures that belief his arthritis, and perhaps osteoporosis as well. His head and shoulders slumped forward and his gait was uncertain, but once at the altar he seemed to come to life as George Burns had in his late nineties once the spotlight hit him on a Las Vegas stage. Father O's reedy voice hadn't changed, and its high pitch helped it to reach the church's back corner, where I sat.
"He was completely bald except for a thing ring of barely visible white hair. His trademark black-framed glasses were in stark contrast to the whiteness of his complexion and his brilliant white vestments. When the alter girls missed a cue, he gently reminded them of their duties, unlike Monsignor McNulty, who used to yell at you in a coarse stage whisper that could be heard by the first ten rows. Father O. was still famously off-key as he led the assembly in song, but did so with great enthusiasm...
"Excuse me, Father O.?"
"He looked at me with a quizzical expression I'm sure he had used many times before, when faces from the past appear out of the crowds at church.
"Do I know you?" he said. He extended both hands forward and shook my hand joyfully. I could feel his frailty.
"Vinny Schmidt."
"What a wonderful treat! I'm a last minute fill-in here today, because Father Garcia is ill. How are you? Do you still live in the parish?"
"No, Father. I live in Bronxville. Temporarily, I hope..."
"I read your book," he said, which stopped me cold. "I thought it was a little bit too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday."
"You're right, Father. But without Jesus dying on the cross, there wouldn't be a resurrection...

Although they talked of Whitey, Father O. didn't know how to find him. But Vinny took the time to ask about Father Q. He remembered that Whitey had quit going to many things in the Parish while he had been there. Now Vinny knew that Father Q. had served twelve year in prison for child sex abuse and he had later died. I thought the close from Father O. was a good statement:
Satan infiltrates wherever there's an opportunity, Vinny. I hope you can see past that. Even I have trouble doing it. We do what we can...
He would add that information to what he'd been collecting. But nothing he'd heard from others had prepared him for his discovery that Whitey might  haVE killed a man and was wanted for murder...

As you read, do you begin to wonder about the intent of the book--about what the ending will be? I kept wondering whether Vinny was running toward his past because he couldn't deal with his now. Did Vinny really think if he went back to his school days that he could start all over? Will readers feel like that?

I enjoyed learning of Vinny's past, but it in no way made me want to think about going back! Was that different for city kids versus country kids? City kids living closer physically and becoming much more involved with the lives of other children. Perhaps then, I, after all, really did go back--back to the country, the trees, the flowers, the walks that made up my quieter life... Schindler's novel made me realize that perhaps we all look back, even though each of our past lives were so different than others...

But no matter what I pondered as I read, I never could have imagined the last 20 pages of this book! For me, those pages made all of the previous words secondary. Here was the story--the Hallelujah! moment during a great sermon... The Ahhhh! moment during somebody's birthday or baby shower party when something perfect is unwrapped... Or, that moment when you realize that all things are possible...

Experience The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler...


Steven Schindler
Born and raised in the Bronx, Steven Schindler's first two novels, Sewer Balls and From the Block, are artfully gritty portrayals of the neighborhood characters who hung out on the stoops, playgrounds, rooftops and barstools during the crazy days of the Bronx in the sixties and seventies. Both books offer a heavy dose of mad, inner-city youthful adventures laced with awkward teenage sex, rock and roll, and the search for the perfect egg cream, i.e. the essence of life itself.
After graduating with a degree in film and theatre from Hunter College, he soon found himself acting in off-off Broadway productions around the city, including a geodesic dome in the Bronx, an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, a loft in SoHo and at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village. Bartering a deal at a prominent NY drama school to videotape classes in exchange for acting lessons, he discovered that he enjoyed life more from behind the camera than in front of it. (He denies that a lousy review of one of his performances in the Village Voice led to this decision.)
Enrolling in a video documentary class turned out to be the first step in a career that has spanned over twenty years in television production. From assisting "underground" video documentarians in SoHo, (Schindler's own doc really was underground- it was about an elderly blind lady who played the accordion in the subway, called Subway Mary) to catching criminals on the FBI's most wanted list for America's Most Wanted, to conducting exclusive interviews with The Who, Schindler is an award winning writer and producer who currently lives in Los Angeles. He has won four Chicago Emmy awards, and has written and produced news, sports, documentary, TV magazines, entertainment, promotion and reality television.
His third novel, From Here to Reality (Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books), is a hilarious send-up of a transplanted New Yorker's foray into the early days of reality television in Hollywood, and received praise from Jay Leno and Roger L. Simon (The Big Fix)
Schindler's fourth novel, On the Bluffs, is a thrilling love story wrapped in a dysfunctional family mystery that begins on the trendy streets of Washington D.C. and winds up in a rundown mansion on the bluffs of Cape Cod. "Sometimes the biggest lies are the ones we live," Schindler says, referring to the characters who bring his latest novel to life.
And coming in June 2013, THE LAST SEWER BALL! The continuing story of Whitey and Vinny, and the other kids from the block, come to life in this rollicking tale where the past and the present collide with not so instant karma.

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