Recent Reviews for Matt Ponticello
How to Beg for Cigarettes (Book) - 5/4/2012 10:28:33 PM|
In this extraordinary book you step into the life of a man who has decided to open an auto-body shop in the heart of the inner city. The neighborhood is so bad his building has no owner, and he therefore has no rent to pay. Drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless people and gang members drop in to the shop and make getting to and from work a daily adventure. But hold on, ditch your preconceptions. The author devotes a chapter or more to every one of these people, and by the time you have read two or three of these portraits, you are hooked.
Although he's not an easy touch, Ponticello, whose book is in large part autobiographical, gives away nearly all of his cigarettes. The so-called low-lifes of the world are not only his friends, they are his customers and employees. His chief mechanic is a Honduran illegal who speaks only Spanish, and this man's assistants are a gang of boys who you know are up to no good. Ponticello gives them all a job, and more than that a purpose. In exchange they give him their loyalty, respect and love.
His neighbors, the bail bondsman Calloway, the lawyer Melendez, and the tow truck driver Vinnie are people he does business with daily. It's surprising how the auto-body shop can turn into the center of this little universe. Vinnie tows in work to be done. The lawyer defends the drug dealers whose cars get confiscated when they get busted, and often as not need a repair job. The bail bondsman gets them out of jail.
The homeless are like pigeons. Why? Because when Angelo the diner owner goes out the door and empties his ashtray onto the sidewalk, the homeless come running to fight over the butts that might have one or two smokes left in them.
The voluptuous Romanian Juliska sells "loosies," single cigarettes, for fifty cents a pop, and don't ask which brand. When Ponticello helps a fat man who has fallen get back to his feet, the fat man asks him for a cigarette to calm his nerves. Ponticello makes the mistake of shaking one up out of the pack and holding up the pack. The fat man steals the whole pack and runs away down the sidewalk, much to the amusement of Juliska. She informs him it's another homeless person, this one unknown to Ponticello.
What ties them all together is on one level cigarettes. This is a cigarette economy, in which cigarettes are like money. It provides a way for the characters in this world to purchase, give away, steal, or beg. They also give people a currency for communicating with each other. On the street, cigarettes are like a common lingo. Even more than cigarettes themselves, though, it's that craven need for them that reveals people's humanity on the street, and that ties them together in this story, and it's all the neverending instances of giving and taking and the petty negotiations and the thievery, too.
The book is written beautifully but not flawlessly, like the people who inhabit it. I listened to the book on my Kindle for the most part; when I read it, my eyes were distracted by spelling errors here and there. Nevertheless, this book is to the inner city in America what Dominique LaPierre's book City of Joy is to the slums of Calcutta. If you are ready to immerse yourself in that world and feel its beauty and power, you will definitely want to read it.
Americana: Boiled Alive in the Melting Pot (Short Story) - 1/8/2013 6:23:34 AM
very interesting story
V-Positive: The Bloodbaby Chronicles ONLY $.99 LIMITED TIME! (Short Story) - 12/17/2012 10:41:40 AM
EEK! Scary write; but very well done! Well done!
V-Positive: The Bloodbaby Chronicles ONLY $.99 LIMITED TIME! (Short Story) - 12/16/2012 6:42:54 AM
mmmm waiting for the next one
The Sunbottle Stone - The Hematologist (Short Story) - 4/19/2012 5:39:48 AM
A great start to what I'm sure is an exciting book.
Slicker and Blue (Poetry) - 5/10/2012 5:36:39 AM
I enjoyed this one, Matt
A Goodnight Kiss (Poetry) - 4/25/2012 5:44:19 AM
can't wait to read and know more of this...some fine writing matt...pmedlin
The Quest for Death (Poetry) - 4/21/2012 6:22:23 AM
consolidating ideas, principles and inspirations can definitely benefit one's state of being or at least maintain a focused perceptive ... reads well ...