Someone on Goodreads wrote of Lunch in Brooklyn, “But where was the fooling around with Neil part??“
This was my first published story, in Sassy, July 1992. It takes place in 11th grade, as the small Quaker school years are coming to a close. The story was built backwards from a note my husband had left me one day, of the “going out, back 5ish” variety, where at the end he scrawled something, which could have been “love” or “later,” I really couldn’t tell. In the context of the note and our relationship, it was insignificant, but what if this were something a boy had written in a girl’s yearbook?
The other day I did a search on the story title and up popped a blog of the same name with a stated (and very much unfulfilled) intention to create a screenplay based on the story. The story was 22 years ago, the blog 10, but who doesn’t like to write something that has been remembered?
Vic Giovanni is joined in Robert Weinberger’s pantheon of memorable characters by his Kindergarten teacher, Lily Regenbogen.
Here we see her through the words of the narrator’s older brother:
“Here’s your crayons, little bluebird,” he hisses, and the way he says little bluebird is a lot different than they way Miss Regenbogen says it.
Through acutely funny dialogue and deftly rendered gestures and descriptions Rob Weinberger recreates growing up in the the 60s and the rocky start to his education, which draws visits from concerned relatives:
“The poor parents,” they whisper. “What they must be going through.”
Today in gym, Lisa DeSilva fell off the ropes. At first they thought she lost her footing, but it turns out she had fainted. Luckily she was only about five feet up and there was a big mat underneath. They ask me to take her to the office so Gary can call her mother to come get her.
I wonder if she still lives in the same house. When we were in lower school, Lisa had a Halloween party in her basement. Her father or stepfather stood at the top of the stairs, making ghost noises through the door while everyone ran around screaming. The floor was sticky with apple juice and squashed candy corns. My cat tail fell off and got lost. Witches hats were mashed. Even Lisa, dressed as a blue fairy, seemed unsure of what would happen next.
I sit with her in Gary’s office. She’s lying on the couch under an International Year of the Child poster. Her hair is dark brown, almost eggplant. She used to be really cute but now she wears glasses with peach-tinted frames that make rest of her face seem small and indistinct. She looks defenseless in her gym clothes, tiny blue shorts and a decal shirt whose decal has been bleached out and is now just a white plastic shape.
“Feel my hands,” she says, laying one hand upon my arm. They are cold and clammy. I still remember the day we were huddled around her in gym, asking, “Does it hurt? Do you bleed a lot?” Lisa was our resident expert. She was the one with the experience. I want to thank her for telling us about it, to tell her that, three years later, I finally got my period, but it has been a while since we were friends.
Unhexed=Bites of Lunch that were cut from the final manuscript. As I slowly, slowly make my way towards creating a print version of the book I may include some of these cuts. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. In an effort to not confuse the reader with too many characters I cut out minor ones.
“Lunch in Brooklyn takes place in New York City in the late 1970s, but it could’ve been written about any era in any locale. Adolescent angst never changes throughout the years; the desires, humiliations and fumbling explorations (drugs, sexuality) remain constant, as do teachers who exclaim, ‘People, settle down,’ and parents who hover over every relationship detail.
“Rebecca Moore has a keen ear for dialog and expertly crafts a young girl’s coming-of-age in a specific time and place. The good news is that Lunch in Brooklyn doesn’t require you be female, or from Brooklyn, to enjoy it.”
Well, actually, meet Robert Weinberger. If you like funny, well-written memoirs, especially those set in the 1970s, in Brooklyn, or on Long Island, read this. Vic Giovanni was Robert’s piano teacher, but maybe you took driver’s ed with this guy. Or maybe you knew Lorna, a missed opportunity.
Here’s how this memoir begins:
Vic Giovanni is my new piano teacher.
He is thirty-five, wears Hai Karate aftershave, drives a maroon 1970 El Dorado, and sits too close to me on the piano bench.
For the first fifteen minutes of every piano lesson, Vic Giovanni details his sexual exploits, claiming numerous rendezvous with many Hollywood actresses. He doesn’t use words like hump or screw or other words I know, but boink, buff, bang (his favorite), ball, boff, bleep, and just about anything beginning with the letter b. Every actress he has either boinked or banged.
Vic Giovanni is determined to make me popular with the opposite sex, the chicks. “And chicks dig a guy who can bang those piano keys,” he explains with a wink.
Read the rest at Hippocampus Magazine: http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2012/12/sex-drugs-and-vic-giovanni-by-robert-weinberger/
Robert says this of himself: He was raised across the street from the Cyclone roller coaster ride at the world-renowned Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn, New York. He legally immigrated to the Los Angeles area in his early twenties. His memoirs, “My Letter,” “The Year of Living Nervously,” and “Look Homeward, Brooklyn” have been published in Memoir Journal and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood. In a previous life, Robert toiled as a publicist for Universal Pictures, working with some of the most recognizable names in the entertainment industry — none of whom will return his phone calls.
“He opens his mouth to say something but the train is picking up speed as we go under the river. We glance at each other without speaking. The empty cars of the CC train rattle through the tunnel. They are gray with yellow walls, dim light, dirty linoleum and slow electric fans. They are like someone’s kitchen in a long dream. When the train pulls into Broadway-Nassau Street, the car fills with miserable people in steaming trench coats. Harry pushes out against the tide of them to transfer to the Lexington Avenue IRT.”
I took this picture of an old CC train at the Transit Museum. Either the colors of the carriage walls had changed by the late 70s or I misremembered them by the time this scene was written. Also, the museum has used brighter lighting. The way I remember it, there was always at least one light flickering and it was darker. Underground was like being underwater. Note the porthole window in the door.
Click here for the book page and code. What’s the catch? There isn’t one, just a request: if you like it, be like Heather Locklear and tell a friend.
Kimberly on Goodreads wrote: “This is a beautiful, and achingly accurate portrayal of the highs and lows of middle school! I must emphasize the beauty of it since now I can appreciate it, being many moons from junior high! I don’t remember the excerpts in Sassy, but I’m happy I stumbled upon it now. This is a wonderful summer read, and although there are teens at the heart of the story I think it will be best enjoyed by us grown-folks, especially Gen X-ers or older. I would love to see what happens next!”
Thank you, Kimberly!
If you’ve read the book, what do you think about the best age for readership?
Or a sequel?