By James Maher
Name: Rafael Hines
Occupation: Sales Director, Morningstar, Writer
Location: Café Mogador, St. Mark's Place
Time: 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9
In part 1, Hines talked about growing up with his mother on Avenue D and East Third Street starting in 1961. "We were there until 1968. Our upstairs neighbor was trying to date my mom. She said no, so he set our apartment on fire." They eventually moved to St. Mark's Place between Avenue A and First Avenue.
Being part of the community has been fantastic. On the positive, the artist culture and the music — one of the things that kind of pushed me to be a writer, is all the creativity, which is still here. I see so many of the same people, who were quote-on-quote citizens like myself.
Back then, you were a citizen or involved in this whole other life. Those people I still see, and many of them are still on the block. My wife says, ‘Oh you’re going to the store, so you’re going to be back in two hours,’ because I have conversations every step of the way. All these people moved here, created a healthy economy in the neighborhood, and have been that fabric outside of this other stuff that’s been going on, which kind of comes and goes. There are just so many good people in this neighborhood.
I want to give Mogador a plug, because this place right here is magic. It’s been around for about 30 years. The hostess would carry each of our kids around when they would seat people. My kids eat here three times a week for dinner, and I come here for breakfast.
There was this guy Steven, who lived upstairs, and for year and years he would print out the Good News Newspaper, from newspapers all around the world. It was all articles about people helping other people, and he would staple it together and hand it out here in the morning. There was me and probably six other regulars and we would read our own newspaper and have this morning dialogue about people helping other people. He passed away about six months ago now. He was a really interesting guy.
I remember, the Boys Club and the 14th Street Y for me was just like home. I’m on the board there now. I went there as a kid and now I’m on the board and I’m part of the scholarship committee. The way people impacted my life and mentored me, I try to do the same thing. My mother was on the board there for years. My mother was such a part of this community as well.
That Y does such amazing things. I could talk about that for two hours. It’s a community center. They have a theatre, and then there’s the early childhood program ... a nursery school, a community center for the elderly and yoga classes — all under one roof. They also have a special-needs program, where no one is turned away, where the whole family can be involved. There’s basketball, soccer. All the counselors and everyone involved are deeply committed to caring about this community and the people who it serves.
My mother also had a bridal store on East 9th Street, until she got really sick last year. At one time, I actually had three bridal stores. I was going to be the gown king. It was a total side project. I had three stores on 9th Street between 1st and 2nd, which started out as a little side gig and then grew and grew, until they all kind of imploded.
Now I work for the company Morningstar, which does the ratings for mutual funds and everything else. I’m on the energy side. They acquired the company I worked for in 2009. We were a family-run businesses for commodities and energy.
I’m also a writer. In the past, I used to fly all over the place for work, and I would always pick up the latest thriller and the latest bestseller. I kept thinking, ‘You’ve got a story in you.’ And then during 9/11, my office was in the south tower. Obviously the whole tragedy was overwhelming. At the time, I think a lot of people thought there would be follow-up attacks, although it never happened.
That was my thought and from there that was the genesis of my book that’s coming out this week. I started by just putting small stories together that I thought were funny and then characters started showing up and dialogue started appearing out of nowhere and now I’ve got a full suspense thriller, "Bishop’s War."
It’s an action thriller about a guy who stops a terrorist attack in Union Square Park. The terrorists come after him and his family, but his family is a crime family on the Lower East Side, so it comes full circle. The characters are based on all the people who I grew up with, basically the cops and gangsters. I did a ton of research and I have friends who are over in Afghanistan, who I was sending chapters to.
It’s funny. The first agent I went to said, ‘You know, the dialogue doesn’t ring true.’ I said, ‘That’s funny, because that is word for word what that guy said.’ I didn’t even make that up. I was just using someone’s lines.
Read Part 1 here.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.