The first conversation I had with Bob Bozic was in a crowded Big Mouth Coffee Roasters in Beacon, and at the end, he suggested I slap him across the face.

"To see how they react," he said, scanning the patrons and baristas and already amused with himself.

No, Bob Bozic isn't a creep. He is, however, a provocateur: fascinated with people, how they operate in the world and willing to push buttons to extract that information. Take the cover of Bozic's new memoir, So What Happens Is..., for example. The book detailing a life too strange for fiction shows him offering a middle finger to the camera.

Bob Bozic
Bob Bozic

"When I talk to people, I’m not interested in what they’re telling me. I’m interested in what they’re not telling me," Bozic says.

Bob's tendency to goad his audience -- if you're in a conversation with him, you soon learn it's a monologue -- once led actress Julia Roberts to storm out of Fanelli's Cafe in Manhattan, where he was once a bartender and where his book release will be feted on Sunday, June 9.

His run-in with Julia Roberts, like many of his tales, strain credulity until you stumble on fact-checked articles in The New Yorker and The New York Times recounting these episodes.

Bob Bozic's Boxing Days Video from The New Yorker

Bozic's tumultuous life has seen him at turns a bank robber, a boxer who sparred with Larry Holmes in Madison Square Garden, husband to a T.S. Eliot scholar who dated Barack Obama prior to taking up with him, and someone who spent years in a legal battle in Serbia trying to reclaim his family home.

So What Happens Is... opens with Bozic waking in a steaming house in Serbia and running down the first floor into boiling water from a burst pipe. His severe burns led to months of recuperation in Germany and the narrative thrust of the memoir flows from that feverish time as he reflected back on his life.

Born in Canada in 1950, Bozic was placed into foster care at three months old before his mother took him back into her custody at 10 years old. Life with his mother was chaotic and abusive, leading him to runaway from home and live on the streets at 14. A local gangster took a liking to him and steered him into boxing, sensing Bozic's rage needed to be channeled before he ended up in jail for killing somebody.

This redirected energy worked for a time, though he did eventually wind up in legal trouble for robbing a bank. He received a suspended sentence: there was no weapon used in the robbery and he handed the loan officers he took hostage Broadway tickets for their trouble. (And yes, this is among the fact-checked tales in Nick Paumgartnen's excellent piece on Bozic in The New Yorker.)

A bank robber who handed out Broadway tickets.

A boxer who loves talking about ballet, opera and George Elliot's Middlemarch.

A grizzled bouncer who doesn't wipe the tears streaming down his face when he recounts seeing his foster mother Aunt Grace a decade after being taken from her care. Aunt Grace, who gave him the kindness and love denied him the rest of his childhood, died within a week of Bozic's visit. (“She said, 'I couldn’t die until I talked to my son that I lost,'” he told me.)

Bozic enjoys thwarting the preconceived notions people have of him. He enjoys holding up a middle finger to the world, with the hint of an instigator's smile hiding behind it.

Bozic's memoir is available at He maintains a Substack at

10 Commandments of Hiking Mount Beacon

A hike up Mount Beacon is on the bucket list for most Hudson Valley residents. The 4.4-mile trail includes over 1,600 feet in elevation, so it's sure to give you a workout, whether you're an experienced hiker or someone looking to take on a new challenge.

Let's breakdown the musts of any visit to the popular trail.

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