Montego Pete came over from Jamaica after making a few bucks and he smiles, though he's a little hazy when he tells you how it happened. But now he's in another Jamaica, the one in Queens and he's running a newsstand, living the American Dream.
There are thousands of newsstands in the City of New York and Pete, which is not his name, is running the only one of its kind.
He took those few bucks and borrowed a few more from either the local shark or maybe it was Citibank or maybe they're the same (he gets hazy about that, too, but always with a big smile,) and built this thing.
He's got coffee for the commuters. He's got Caribbean magazines and newspapers for the back-home crowd, and he's got all the papers. The Times, the Journal, The News, Il Progresso, The Forward, The Post, The Amsterdam News, Newsday. He gets the Jamaica Gleaner and the Sunday something or other, maybe a week late.
And he's got all the Magazines such as they are left of them: Newsweek, Time, The Star, In Touch. And then there's Montego Pete's specialty, the trade journals.
You need The Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology? You need Colorado Geology Digest? You need The Aristotelian Review? Montego Pete's got 'em.
"You know, people are always getting studies from these magazines second or third hand," he says. "There are studies of Nevuses in Dermatology Today and you can only get them quoted in the papers. You get 'em filtered through some reporter's reading. I want to give people the real deal."
So Montego Pete is the go-to guy for Cosmology Quarterly, which is the only place you can read Hawking's latest theory on Black Holes, Dark Energy and Anti-matter. CQ is right there on the shelf next to GQ, Esquire and Cosmo.
"I don't sell a lot of this stuff," Pete says, "But it builds trust, and customer traffic. And I get to meet a lot of dermatologists, cosmologists and pediatric endocrinologists. Also coal miners."
There are no working coal mines in Jamaica, Queens. In fact, there are no coal mines anywhere in southeastern New York. But they come anyway, because Pete's is the only place outside West Virginia and Kentucky you can buy Anthracite Today, which is the leading coal geology magazine.
"The public has a right to know," he says, "and they don't want to get their information second hand, like when the Wall Street Journal quotes a study of feet from Cobbler's Digest, which you can usually only get in Brazil and Italy, though there's soon going to be an Indonesian edition in English."
I ask him if he carries Genetically Altered Food Grower's Week. He says he did, but the Sutphin Boulevard Ecology Club picketed him and that was bad for business.
"They made me sell fair trade coffee, and I accepted that. But they drew the line at Genetically Altered Food Grower's Week."
I ask him if fair trade coffee is a monthly or a weekly.
"It's just coffee," he says. They don't have their own magazine yet. I'm thinking of starting one for them.
And always with that smile.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.
Note to readers: While constructing the annual WestraDamus feature, the Wessays™ staff voted to rerun an occasional earlier item in this space. This one is from late 2007 and has been updated to eliminate some dead magazines.)
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
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© WJR 2014, 2007