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How to Beg for Cigarettes
“How to Beg for Cigarettes,” is the story of one business owner’s hilarious, “laugh-a-mile-a-minute” romp through the streets and alleyways of America’s inner cities.
“How to Beg for Cigarettes” is a must-read for business owners, or anyone who’s ever had even the slightest aspiration about opening a small business.
“Most people believe having your own business is a walk in the park,” Ponticello explains, “I thought so too, and I’m sure it can be; if it’s a charming little donut shop way the hell out in the country. I found out the hard way; I opened an auto body repair shop deep in the bowels of the inner city. Yeah, take a walk in the park around here, if you can find one; and see how long you last before you’re mugged for cigarettes and loose change.”
So begins “How to Beg for Cigarettes.” From petty theft to murder, Ponticello searches for the humor and “good” in even the worst-case scenarios, taking a romantic pride in the city’s dangers - genuine and predictable - and approaches a six-block walk for coffee every morning as if it’s an epic adventure filled with peril.
By drawing from his personal experience and actual events, Matt Ponticello documents his exploits throughout the inner city, where he confronts a real and sometimes surreal cast of characters, within a city, a business, and a staff of employees to match.
Amidst the daily dangers and confrontations in this harsh environment, he struggles with his own personal battle – whether to stay in business and suffer an inevitable nervous breakdown or return to the calm of retirement.
I break the cardinal rule; I don’t feel like smoking, but I light up in broad daylight anyway. The first hit adequately fills my lungs. The second drag does nothing for me so I take a short hit, and then flick the cigarette to the ground.
The most alert and athletic beggar launches himself from the horde of vagrants and snatches the cigarette in mid air, only inches from the pavement. He’s a pro all right; bobbing, weaving, flailing his elbows like a roller derby star, and knocking down everyone in his path before zipping around the corner. As soon as he’s out of sight, the group returns their attention to me.
“Sorry, that was my last one,” I mutter while making sure I keep my hand away the pocket harboring the pack of smokes.
The group studies me with disbelieving glares; some being threatening when they scrunch their noses and grit their rotted teeth. When they see I’m not budging, they disperse one by one; each moocher standing across the street so as not to lose sight of me.