I've just finished Boogaloo on 2nd Ave. by Mark Kurlansky and would highly recommend it! It's delightful summer reading set in NYC. Mark Kurlansky has written several books including Salt and Cod.This book explores the micro society of 2nd Ave. It's a contemporary morality story centering around the Seltzer's and their apartment building during one summer. The cast of characters is so realistically portrayed that you feel you know them.
"Eli Rabbinowitz was shaped like a hamster, though larger and somewhat less furry. As Sonia Cohn Seltzer applied her long skilled fingers to his rubbery white flesh, he squeaked and sighed...Noises that reminded her of his rodentlike qualities." And that starts the book.
This microcosm, within the bigger NYC has every ethnic group represented and amusingly skewered. Food is treated like another character introduced with its own personality and importance. "There were the three Sals. They all sold homemade mozzarella and opinions."
Then there is the way people walk. Chow Mein Vega one of the main characters had a theory about the way Latins and Jews walked. "Jews walked to a very fast four-beat...dom-domdom dom-hey. Latinos have a three-beat like a cha-cha-cha sounding like du-dat-dat-dat. It moves your body a lot more, but doesn't get you down the street nearly as fast....Mordy's four-four was slower than the usual Jewish step, though his long legs covered the distance just as quickly. Rosita, next to him in a bouncy three-beat, had twice the movement but could not keep up. Anyone with a sense of rhythm could see that these two were not going to make a couple."
It's Kurlansky's observations on life and the city that make this book memorable. Many times I was reminded of Spike Lee's movies Do the Right Thing and most recently Inside Man where the city was a backdrop to the characters and random acts propelled the story.
For any of you who miss the city and need a city fix-grab Boogaloo and take a quick vacation on 2nd Avenue!