Where do you live? Montclair, right on the line between the 3rd and 4th Wards. I can walk to Church Street and Crockett’s Fish Fry, which is right where I like to be.
When did you move there?
Eight years ago, when I moved in together with my wife Sarah. She needed to commute to the City, and I’d always wanted to live in Montclair. We’re feeling the pressure from the mass gentrification inflicted on all cities by developers, but it’s still the diverse town that I grew up next to.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nutley and Belleville, and would ride my bike and later drive to Montclair to visit Montclair Book Center, the antique shops, Two Tone the punk shop, falafel joints, Middle Earth Comics – now long gone, but thankfully Jeff Beck at East Side Mags filled our comic book black hole!
How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion?
I’m a writer with two novels published and over 50 short stories, with two more books coming out next year. My books are available at our fine library and our wonderful bookstore, Watchung Booksellers. I have a day job as a computer administrator that pays the rent and lets me write what I want. I love our town’s literary culture, from the readings at Red Eye Café to the Montclair Literary Festival, which I’ll be moderating a panel at next year. And my friend and fellow cat-lover Joyce Carol Oates will be attending.
Coffee, tea or … ? I love cold brew coffee—Louisiana style, they did it long before the hipsters—and tea of all colors. Green, black, a dirty chai from Red Eye—as long as it’s got some punch to it.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day?
The sun is out, but the temp doesn’t top 65. A magical pixie delivers me fresh sfogliatelle from Nicolo’s bakery (or I schlep out and get some, and maybe a sausage roll). I read the newspapers with my cats and a large aforementioned iced cold brew coffee, including the Montclair Local. I walk down to the post office to mail signed books to readers and pick up a huge royalty check, which I spend on a copy of Weird NJ at MBC, comics at East Side Mags, a crunchy spicy falafel from Beyond Pita and a dirty chai from Red Eye. I wander through the farmer’s market on my way to the library, and I sit in the Avis Campbell Gardens behind the United Way building to eat my lunch and read a book while watching the bees pollinate the beautiful flowers. Then perhaps a hike at Eagle Rock, and a nap with the cats or a movie at Cinema 505, preferably a cool documentary like Rodents of Unusual Size or Blood and Bami, the Grace Jones doc they had. Night time, a walk to the art museum or a gallery, then wander over to Ruthie’s BBQ for blues and pizza and a few craft beers from Amanti Vino. We close the place and wander down to Pig & Prince for a few more drinks, grab some Popeye’s spicy drumsticks and biscuits from Lackawanna (before the “Historic Society” turns the abandoned grocery store into another condo tower and it gets replaced with an artisanal meatball bistro) and eat them on the walk home, where we meet the friendly people of our neighborhood and buy some incense from the incense guy, because why not.
What’s your favorite local restaurant? Just one? Plum on Park. They are consistently wonderful without gilding the lily. But I’m glad Alan’s Avenue hasn’t changed much in 30 years, I love the place.
What’s on your nightstand?
I’m reading We Sold Our Souls, by Grady Hendrix, a heavy metal horror nostalgia novel. Next up is The Best American Short Stories 2018, edited by Roxane Gay, one of my favorite writers. And The Witch Elm by Tana French, another favorite.
What are you listening to?
Because I’m editing my second Jay Desmarteaux thriller, I’ve got a ‘70s-era AC/DC and Creedence playlist on repeat to keep my mind in it. But I’m loving the Sorry to Bother You soundtrack by The Coup. One of the best movies and albums of the year.
What are your current indulgences?
I’m a walking indulgence. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. The only pleasure you should feel guilty about is if you’re a secret serial killer or hurt anyone. Cheesy movies, or romance novels? Nothing to feel guilty about. I indulge our two cats with freeze dried minnows and chicken hearts from Lukas & Berube. Myself? If I’m feeling sore from training at Rock Solid Krav Maga over in Little Falls, I might stretch my legs and get a small cup of cookie crunch espress gelato at Gelotti to ease my pain.
What talent you would most like to have?
I have absolutely no rhythm or musical talent. I can’t hear a beat. I still sing karaoke, but only songs I’ve known since my teen years, that I have memorized. I wish I could play guitar, so I could play backup with Joan Jett, just once.
What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about Montclair?
Avis Campbell Gardens. It’s nice to walk through to relax.
What do you hope they say about you at your funeral?
“I guess you CAN live to 120 eating only pizza and beer!”