Monday, October 1, 2007

Central Park and Other Stories

Central Park
And Other Stories
By Ed Galing
53 pages at $5 + s & h
Peerless Press
3435 Mill Road
Hatboro PA

Ed Galing's poetry has been featured in many well-known journals and he
has numerous chapbooks to his credit. I've been privileged to review most
of them. This is his first book of prose. These stories first appeared in
Spare Change, a publication out of Cambridge, Mass dedicated to poverty and
homelessness issues. While reading this book my first thought was: Amazing!
His writing style is feisty, honest, touching, and amusing, with an
energetic spirit shining out of every story. Ed Galing knows poverty and
injustice; he remembers a childhood spent in the tenements of New York City
and Philadelphia. Galing sympathizes with the homeless because he
understands that many Americans are one paycheck away from living in a
cardboard box. And so, in his ninth decade of life, Ed Galing, Poet Laureate
of Hatboro PA, compiled this book of fictional short stories that contain
more than a modicum of truth. These are among some of the best short stories
I've read anywhere, by any author, famous or otherwise. I've chosen a random sampling of these fifteen stories for review purposes:

"Central Park" introduces readers to Joe Brown. Joe has no skills with
which to earn real money and his odd jobs don't allow for even the cheapest
of lodging. He looks on the bright side, though, and tells himself sleeping
under the stars in Central Park is akin to camping out.

In "Conversations With Myself" we meet Harry Cohen, age 82. This lonely
widower never had much money but lived frugally and raised two children. He
enjoys discussing politics and books, and pursuing a gentle flirtation with
his lady friend.

35 year old Harry Epstein drives the narrative in "My War With the
Unemployment Office." Abandoned by his parents as a child, he grew up in
foster care. He's knocked around from job to job for years but hopes for
steady work so he can find a decent apartment. He files for unemployment
after his latest lay off. His only hedge against poverty is a $5 bill hidden
in his shoe.

"Once Upon a Neighborhood" is a poignant picture of life back when
almost everyone was poor. But in South Philly neighborhoods, working class
people banded together and even The Mob had a heart. Cops, firemen,
hustlers, and the working poor could forget their troubles for one night
when a young Sinatra entertained at a local nightspot.

Jeff Grimly is riding high with a good job one day, and homeless the
next after losing his business in "The Fall Guy." Jeff learns that honor and
honesty are worth more than money, even to a homeless guy.

Bill Kearney is a 50 year old music teacher at a Settlement House on New
York City's East Side in "East Side Melody." Josh Samuels is his 16 year old
prodigy, living in abject poverty, struggling to avoid joining a gang.
Amidst the dregs of tenement life, Kearney finds gold in a boy whose
untrained musical gift is stunning.

"Diary of a Squatter" shares the life of Jake Summers. Jake lost his
wife, then his home, after getting laid off from his job. He's too proud to
live in shelters so lives in a condemned, boarded up building that used to
be a crack house. His home has no electricity, water, or heat, but the
beauty of this story is how Jake makes an acceptable life out of nothing,
with only a mouse for company and a few candle stubs to read by.

A handful of discriminating, respected poets and publishers have
discovered Ed Galing's work and I've been singing his praises since
reviewing his first book of poetry. After reading Address: Central Park, I'm
doubly impressed with his abilities. Check out Galing's blog, created and
maintained by Doug Holder, to see more of his work. Ed Galing's home made
books are treasures and highly recommended.

Review by Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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