Friday, September 26, 2014

Park Avenue to Park Bench - Michael Domino

Summary: On long daily walks around Manhattan, Mike Domino meets some amazing characters and listens as they tell their stories.  He finds them everywhere — parked on benches, stoops, or bar stools.   (Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.)  We meet, and even learn to love these only-in-New York characters through the twenty, mostly factual stories of this highly readable romp along the streets of a city that Mike Domino obviously loves.  Manhattan has its own Studs Terkel. (Image and summary from parkavenuetoparkbench.com.  I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  I've only spent a few days in New York as an intern way back in 2001.  It certainly wasn't long enough, and I would have been happy to park myself in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and watch the people of New York the entire time I was there.  Michael Domino seems to have done just that - with the benefit of being a resident and having years to collect stories and friends from all walks of life.

Domino has a very readable style.  His easygoing manner in writing made me feel like I knew him; like he was somehow a distant relative I kept in contact with and was shadowing.  His collection of short stories felt a little disjointed at times, as in one story he'd talk about living alone on a ground-level apartment, the next he's been in an 11th story apartment with a view for twenty years, but he's also married and doesn't live in the city.  I had to remind myself (with this and with another story that just stretched my belief a little too far) that these stories are "mostly factual" and chalk it up to literary license, but had I not read the book straight through and had just been reading a story here and there, it wouldn't have bothered me a bit.

Domino has done his best to capture the "It" factor that makes New York so captivating.  It's not in the glitz and the glamor, it's in the life teeming throughout the island.  His stories made me long for a trip back -- perhaps this time to people-watch a little more.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Language.  Lots of language.  Domino is primarily talking to regular old Joes on the street, and that includes some pretty rough characters with some pretty salty language.  It nearly made me quit as I felt he could have captured the essence without the foul language.  Also, there's a pretty gruesome murder.

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