.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


When most people think about the Rose Bowl they think about the national college football championship game played on New Years Day but for many folks in Southern California the Rose Bowl is the home of one of the best flea markets in the country. I had heard about this flea market for years but somehow I never got the chance to go, but last Sunday I made the trek. The Rose Bowl flea market is held on the second Sunday of every month in Pasadena, Ca. a beautiful idyllic town filled with beautifully landscaped lawns, storybook houses and a charming old fashioned main street, filled with shops and restaurants. Just north of Los Angeles it is a short 90 minute drive from my hone in Palm Springs.

We left at about noon and when we got to Foothill Boulevard the surprisingly residential neighborhood where the stadium is, the police were turning all the cars back, "Too crowded," they said. We tried driving to another entrance, same story, the problem was the narrow roads couldn't handle all the traffic congestion. "Let's just go back to the other entrance, it seemed closer and maybe we can find parking on the street" said my husband. To make a long story short when we got back the cops were gone and we drove right up to the stadium and parked on the grass. So if the same thing happens to you just go grab a cup of coffee, let the traffic thin out and go back a little later.

The flea market is vast; vendor booths completely surround the stadium. There is a new section filled with all the typical things you will find at your local flea market but what the main Rose Bowl area delivers on is antiques, vintage clothes and Hollywood memorabilia. Whether it is clothes, furniture, memorabilia or jewelry the Rose Bowl took me back to a time when most things were made in America - and made to last. Everywhere I turned I found products form my teenage years, before I had a credit card, a time where I saved up for every purchase and every thing I bought was special.

My husband collects record albums, and we were able to snag a rare Beatles Magical Mystery Tour with the 24 page booklet inside intact. In fact, I have never seen so many record albums for sale. Thank god for the albums, searching for bargains kept Ray well occupied. He keeps telling me that vinyl is making a comeback, and I am beginning to believe him. The record vendors told us that most of their customers are in their twenties.

My husband's father was a watchmaker and jeweler and on a trip to Scotland Ray had taken one of his mothers old charm bracelet and filled it with charms as a surprise for me. I loved that bracelet and was devastated when it was stolen from my house with the rest of my jewelry. I loved the way the charms clinked together when I raised my arms. When we passed by a booth packed with jewelry a charm bracelet encircled with hearts caught my eye. I picked it up glanced quickly at the charms and declared "I have to have this." Well after a bit of haggling, because we all know that is one of the pleasures of a flea market, the bracelet was mine.

Walking away, purchase on arm I began to exam the charms; there was a cable car from San Francisco that actually turned on its platform. We've been there I said to Ray, next I found a donkey charm from Big Bear Lake, that is right up the road from us a great place to escape the summer heat. Ironically a charm of a bear and her cub were from Yellowstone and a cow skull from Jackson Hole. "Ray, look charms from Wyoming". We had driven there a few years ago. "We have been to so many of the same places. It's like someone collected all of these memories and gave them to us."

But the charm that touched us the most, was a shamrock designed in the shape of a stop sign that read, "I'll never stop loving you." For the next few hours all we could wonder about was who had given her this charm. Had he ever stopped loving her, had they been married, how long had it taken her to collect all these charms? Had she bought them in a jewelry store, were they presents from loved ones, or had she collected them over a lifetime? How had this bracelet ended up at the flea market? Had it been stolen or pawned or just sold by a relative that had no use for an old fashioned sterling silver charm bracelet?

We stayed at the flea market until it closed at four, our backpack stuffed with albums and nick knacks. When we returned home we shined up the bracelet. Every time I wear it I still wonder about the previous owner, I wish she knew how much it means to me. But that is the great gift of buying something old; it comes with a story and memories. Now it is my turn to add to the story.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"She would be happy to Skype with any book club reading Cruise Quarters. Contact her at ray92262@yahoo.com.

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships