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Queens Chronicle

Kew Gardens coffeehouse honors sports writers

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Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:30 am

Back in the day, before anyone knew what a caramel latte macchiato was, The Interlude coffee shop, tucked away by the Kew Gardens LIRR station, off Lefferts Boulevard, was a popular hangout, where locals schmoozed with their friends over a cup of joe and a slice of cherry pie.

It was a “folky” place for up-and-coming musical artists, such as Jose Feliciano and Al Cooper.

Years later, the torch was passed to Jake Ganz, who owns the newly renovated Odradek’s Coffee House and Wine Bar in the same location. It’s the nabe’s hip go-to spot, which can serve up a mean omelet as a sidekick to your latte or cappuccino.

Named after influential 20th-century writer Franz Kafka’s imaginary creature, Odradek, the cafÈ hosts monthly events and showcases artwork by local talent on its walls.

Ganz said he’s excited that his coffee shop is “part of an ongoing interest and pursuit of art in all its many forms.”

The eclectic vibe and friendly, laidback atmosphere make it a cozy gathering place for local writers, poets and artists — including regular, Jay Flemma, who lives just down the street. He said he’s done a lot of sports writing there, before heading off to his Manhattan law practice.

Flemma’s been touring the country in his spare time, doing golf-centric readings from short stories he’s written as a golf aficionado, making him the perfect candidate to organize and host last Thursday’s exciting NYC Sports Writers’ Night at Odradek’s.

After speaking with Ganz, Flemma said he phoned three of his buddies to join him at the event: author and Sports Illustrated writer Kevin Cook and veteran New York Post writers Ralph Wimbish and Mike Vaccaro.

For a frigid evening, there was a great turnout at the action-packed literary sports event.

The lattes and wine were flowing, and spirits were high as local sports fans came by, along with a handful of curious city folk to hear Vaccaro read excerpts from his book “1941: The Greatest Year in Sports.”

Wimbish talked about his experiences as a bat boy for the St. Louis Cardinals — in 1960 he watched Los Angeles Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax pitch.

Flemma read from some of his own “favorites,” including “The Golf Rum Diaries,” which is available at cybergolf.com.

Cook read excerpts from his latest book “The Last Headbangers: NFL Football in the Rowdy, Reckless ‘70s: the Era that Created Modern Sports.”

Though Cook spends most of his time writing about sports, he recently finished a book, about Kitty Genovese, who was murdered 50 years ago in Kew Gardens.

Cook, who lives in downtown Manhattan, shared some interesting details about the book, entitled “Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America.”

He said he was fascinated with the case for years and realized the 50th anniversary of Genovese’s murder was coming up, so he felt compelled to find out more about her life. He pointed out that for decades, “she had been portrayed almost exclusively as a victim.”

After researching the Kew Gardens case for a year and a half, speaking with locals, as well as neighbors who knew Genovese, Cook found many discrepancies between their accounts and the New York Times’ reporting that set the public’s view of the crime.

“[She is shown] not just as a victim, but as a real, vibrant and generous person,” Cook said.

He also discovered that those stories about 38 bystanders doing nothing to help her weren’t accurate.

“I’ve come to believe that the case is one of the most misunderstood in American history,” he said.

Odradek’s Coffee House’s Reading Series

When: Second week of every month (see site for 2014 schedule)

Where: 82-60 Austin St., Kew Gardens

Website: odradekscoffee.com

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