May 2001
Excerpts from Babies & Fools (Part I of IV) : The Burning of Superflyville

by Michael A. Gonzales

Part I of IV

Excerpts from "Babies & Fools", copyright 2001
The Burning of Superflyville

The winter moon was a yellow stain across the sky, softly illuminating the countless storefronts lining the sidewalk. Coming outta The Oasis after going to pick-up some loot from mommy, I could still hear Red Jackson talking in his bellowing Little Caesar/James Cagney voice, stirring stardust echoes in my head. "Don't spend it all on wine and women, see," he mocked, a few minutes before. "Don't let those dames get the best of you." A gray goose fixture at The O, he always slipped me a crisp five spot whenever mom turned her back to slice limes or refill a pitcher of Pabst.

"When I was your age, before Time Square became a porn zoo, it was like movie wonderland," he droned. Red gulped a 7&7 before he stumbled on memory lane. "We had the Victory and the Lyric and the Globe and that other Apollo. In our naked city there was Bogartland, Cangey Corner, Raft River, Body & Soul Boulevard and Widmark Square. Now, only thing they got down there hop heads and hookers." It was a story I'd heard before. Like most of the old cats chilling in The O, old man Red had more memories than teeth.

Me, myself, last time I was hung on the Deuce, there was this handicapped freakazoid trying to cross the street. Dude looked like he might've been pipe-bomb blasted in Vietnam or somebody had dropped his ugly ass from the Port Authority rooftop. Brother had no legs, just pushing himself down the avenue on a wide wooden skateboard as his knuckles scraped the dirty ground. Nigga wore black motorcycle gloves, a thick sweater and denim applejack hat. In a crimson-lit massage parlor overlooking Peepland, two heavily made-up gypsy women were staring from a dirty window. Bright as neon whores, they wore fake pearls and sad smiles. Both were making the sign of the cross, as though blessing the block.

Besides myself, the gypsy girls and a couple of dice-shooting cornerboys riding the white horse, nobody seemed to notice the gimp existed, even though he was singing some salsa song at the top of his lungs. "Stop filling that kid's head with those old bible stories, Red," joked mom, setting a fresh drink in front of him. "Time for him to boogie oggie on home." After kissing her on the cheek, I slapped Red a hi-five and dipped into the night.

It was only six o'clock, but outside the chilly autumn night was bleak. In front of the Hancock's Liquor store, a stray black dog howled over the roar of traffic. From the sublime beauty of Early's Pool Hall to the rowdy din of the Carl's on the Corner to chink chatter floating like music from the Chinese laundry, most of the businesses in my neighborhood had been in existence since I could remember.

On brittle school mornings me and my crew would descent on The Blue Funk to drive Mr. Jesse crazy with our hyper behavior fueled by bowls of Count Chocula, mugs of sweet cocoa and handfuls of Flintstone vitamins. Fiending for sugar worse than those nodding fools up the block who was shooting shit in their arms. "Stone junkie, stone stone junkie," a blind man with a guitar sang standing on the corner.

We pushed past old man Moody, who was always standing in the way of the candy counter with his Daily News, still complaining about missing the numbers. If I had a pork chop for everytime I heard that crock, I would never be hungry. "I ain't got all day for foolishness," Jesse moaned, rushing us as though he might actually have someplace to go. Besides walking his ugly ass mutt twice a day, Jessie never left the store, so I seriously wasn't worried about wasting his time.

"If you don't like kids then why did you open a damn candy store," I asked him once. My boys laughed so hard you would've thought Bozo the Clown had just walked through the door. The fat bastard didn't miss a beat. "I like kids," he smirked. "I just don't like ya'll."

With our freshly scrubbed faces pressed against the smudged glass, we barked like rabid dogs, ordering bags of red licorice, Now or Later's, Reggie Jackson candy bars, M&M's with peanuts, multicolored jawbreakers and stacks of Wacky Packs. It was C.C. who dreamed-up the bright idea that we could resell the candy to our sugar deprived classmates for a nickel mark up, but Sister Rosa nipped that shit in the bud mad quick. "If the catholic church doesn't make any money from these sells, then it has to stop," she explained before snatching our junk. Bet anything all them nuns ate our shit in the convent.

After school, if we were chillin' over Smokey's house, he would sneak and play something from his mom's extensive Richard Pryor collection. Bugging out on That Nigger's Crazy or Bicentennial Nigger, we memorized all of Richard Pryor's jokes, slapping niggas with one whenever we pleased. Man, if that country bumpkin Voodoo didn't do the best Mudbone impersonation, even goin' as far as to make those big bubba-lips like one of those cartoon coons from the '30s. Smokey's perverted step-father kept a stack of Players and Playboy's hidden in the closet, as though Miss Rox wasn't hot enough for this hairy palmed beast, he needed visual aids too.

Just in case Miss. Roxanne (although everyone called her Rox, it was ma who had insisted I call her miss), came home early we always had a stack of soul platters nearby so we could swiftly switch to Teddy Pendergrass or The O'Jays. Secretly, I believed Miss. Rox knew what was going down, baby doll was just too cool to bust us. Often I imagined her standing outside the door clad in high-heels, mini-skirt and a devilish grin, looking as ravishing as Pam Grier in Shebba Baby. If I ever got a James Bond bachelor pad overlooking Central Park, I was coming back to scoop Rox's ass like mocha ice cream.

Jingling change in my pocket, I stopped in front of Mr. Freddy's with the intent of buying the latest James Brown concrete jungle grooves, one of those caramel Philly soul symphonies or the Memphis Moses keyboards of Isaac Hayes. With the hawk flying low, I stood in front of the window and stared at the countless four-color promotional posters and album covers that lined the wall of this small shop. Like a funky black art's gallery, the images often excited me as much as the music inside: from the spooky scream head of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain to the nasty chic of the Ohio Players erotic collection to the noir voodoo of Mile's scary Bitches Brew.

It was too cold for Mr. Freddy to put that battered speaker outside the door, but standing close to the window I could clearly hear the lushness of Johnny Bristol's "Hang On In There Baby," a song that sounded like one of those symphonic delights that the big-boned Romeo Barry White was constructing in Cali: black walls of sound thumping down into luxurious rivers of orchestrated strings, meticulously arranged horn charts and a voice that swooned soulfully.

"What you doing daydreaming in the cold, my man?" asked DJ Dynamite, dressed in his usual fly gear of starched black Lee jeans, fresh suede Playboys and a black mock neck sweater. His walk reminded me of the western keyboard sound heard on the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache," he was cooler than a villain in a Clint Eastwood flick. Reaching into the army surplus knapsack that C.C. had put this wild graff design of Cheech Wizard spinning records on this huge silver Technic 1100 turntable, Dynamite handed me a flyer. "Come check this on Friday."

Crudely reproduced on mimeograph paper, the flyers were exquisitely designed by this kid who called himself Kool-Aid, another graff junkie who had street renown for being Dynamite's personal party invite dude: the DJ would toss him Kool-Aid Art Productions a couple of bones and shout his name out on the mic as the sweaty bodies packed in tight, feeling alright on those Friday nights at Broadway International. Using his own version of wildstyle lettering, the flyer promised that DJ Hollywood, Love Bug Starski, D.J. Eddie Cheba and his Cheba Girls, Busy Bee and Brucie B. were special guests: rocking the house, hands thrown in the air and waving like they had no care.

"Yeah man," I said, excitedly "This looks like its gonna be hot." Now, all I had to do was convince mommy that I wasn't going to be stabbed by some angel dust freak who just got outta jail for killing his own mother and writing satanic messages on the wall with her blood.

"Yo lil man," said Dynamite, teeth chattering "It's too cold out here for conversation, but maybe I'll see you bloods on Friday night."

Opening the small door a potent aroma of opium incense came wafting outside, tickling my nose hairs. Didn't make no sense going to see Mr. Freddy now, because he and Dynamite could be in that cluttered shop, with its black light posters and pot head accessories, talking about music for hours. Going on and on about groups I never even heard of, labels that only released three records in the late-'60s, former R&B singers who had long disappeared off the face of the earth. Dynamite even got to go in the basement and check the old discs stashed in mildewed liquor store cardboard boxes.

One thing about ma though, she be knowing all the gossip. Not that she be all in the mustard trying to plat catsup, but when you work at a bar like The Oasis, folks just be talking shit. The more they drink, the more they say. Just the other night when I was supposed to be snoozing instead of eavesdropping on grown folks conversations, I overheard mom dukes signifying with her best friend Jill, who I had a crush on since the age of seven when I wrote her love poem on Valentine's day. She thanked me, but her brute husband threatened to whip my little seven-year old ass.

[Editor’s Note – If you enjoyed this, please return next week for the next installment. We are proud to offer this Exclusive showcase of Mr. Gonzales’s work. Oftentimes, when one encounters a writer with this type of talent, you must learn to hold on and read what they have to say. And ahhh baby, with “Babies and Fools,” you gonna get the real deal. So click on next week for Part II. It will be here.]