June 2001
Exclusive: “The Burning of Superflyville”- Part III of IV

Exclusive: “The Burning of Superflyville”

by Michael A. Gonzales

Excerpt from Babies & Fools, copyright 2001


Closing my eyes, I fantasized about the future Bomb Squad movie: its about these kids in Harlem who fight the man with aerosol cans as we spread the joy of Black Power with the fine art of graffiti. Of course at the end of the flick I would get the chick. In the real world though, unlike those heroic blaxploitation warriors who soully sauntered through these imaginary ghetto landscapes, where a hot glance from their cold-blooded eyes translated to steamy sex in a matter of moments, the girls that I fell in love with barely knew of my existence.

In second grade there had been this pretty young thing named Toni Sinclair, a fine bi-racial child with a spicy Italian mama, a burly black daddy who owned a bar called The Mark IV over on St. Nick and a pet monkey named Oscar that she had once brought to class for show-and-tell. Crush would be too weak a word to describe how Toni made me feel, so lets say I was haunted: by her slight smell of baby powder and bubble gum, by her radiant smile and goofy laugh, by her soft purr during nap-time and crazed energy on the playground.

Indeed, my only main deterrents was a inability to speak in complete sentences when I was in Toni's presence and the powerful rap of that barely past pre-school playboy Dorian Rodgers. Even his name sounded like some Rat Pack shit. A second-grade swinger who chose his role-model while watching a week's worth of Frankie flicks on The 4:30 Movie, and with one word he was flying those dames to the moon. Dorian was the only kid I knew who clipped pictures from his older brother's G.Q. magazines whenever the class made collages.

It would be four years before I fell in love again: four years of high noon stick-ball games, middle of the street skelly tournaments, rat chasing sprees on the subway tracks, surfing atop the iron horse, high jumps from rooftop to rooftop. In other words, there isn't much interaction with the opposite sex when your activities don't include a double-dutch rope and some jacks.

On the first day of class, going into the sixth grade, the new girl named Jodie Martina gazed at me and smiled. Her family having recently relocated from exotic Barbados in the summertime, I had noticed her in church while serving as an alter-boy while sneaking peeks at her smooth brown skin clad in bright dresses. Father Richard introduced the entire family one Sunday before the end of mass, welcoming them into the St. Catherine's of Genoa family. Jodie had splendid brown eyes, silky onyx hair and her skin glowed brighter than all the lights in Yankee Stadium.

"Whose the honey?" asked Smokey, who had replaced Dorian as the smoothest cat in class. Nigga even had some fuzz on his lip like some midget Billy Dee Williams. From across the room, Jodie was still smiling. "I think you caught her eye."

All of a sudden I got a serious attitude. "Why you care Smokey? Huh? Don't you have enough girlfriends already."

"Ahh, give it a rest already," grinned Smokey. "You think I'm plotting on that island girl, you crazy. Nigga like me don't dig no coconuts, anyway."

"What'cha mean, coconuts? I don't see no coconuts."

Smokey laughed. "That's what my father would call those West Indian girls, nothing but coconuts." I wanted to ask Smoke if he meant his blood dad or the man who paid his mama's bills, but I knew that would start a fight. Who wanted to be looking in The Planet of the Apes grill of our beloved principal the very first day.

As time went by Jodie and I became distant friends, but when you run with a crew like The Bomb Squad--trouble being our middle name and all--one just didn't have a lot of free time to spend macking; especially since mom's insisted that I have my butt over to Mama Turner's house before nightfall. At our class Halloween party, with orange and black streamers swung from the low-ceiling, Jodie was dressed like an African princess while I pretended to be DJ Dynamite, music overlord and lifeline to the grooves, spinning a few new discs Mr. Freddy selected for me. "These are a few of the jams Dynamite bought recently," whispered Mr. Freddy, as though he were a double agent trading secrets with the enemy.

Not having two turntables, the room paused briefly between songs, but when the class heard the dramatic opening riffs of the Rhythm Heritage's smooth as Bosco version of Theme from S.W.A.T., the entire room was transformed into the Soul Train soundstage and Jodie silently metamorphosed into my private Damita Jo Freeman: as the rest of the kids bumped booty's, freaked each other into a frenzy or popped their arms like The Locker Dancers, me and Jodie moved our feet as though trapped within a blaring sound factory: briefly swept away in a feverish swoon of percussion, a mighty cloud of horns and a break section that rocked harder than the second coming of Jesus; for the entire four minutes and ten seconds of the track, I was the man.

Four months later we exchanged Valentine cards, and two months after that we finally went on our first date. "I started thinking you wasn't ever going to ask me out," she replied, smiling coyly.

I thought it best that I not mention that it was Smokey's idea that we all quadruple date on Easter Sunday. "That way we can all be dressed-up, but we don't have to worry about our parent's giving us a hard time about dating. They could just meet us at The Tapia," he said, nudging me in the side like I was jokester Jerry Lewis to his suave Dean Martin. Owned by a family of Dominican's who took the resurrection of Christ quite seriously, there was no way Easter was going to be treated like an ordinary Sunday afternoon. After stopping at The O the Thursday before Easter, my toothy smile could have lit-up the whole block when I saw the words EASTER TRIPLE FEATURE: SUPERFLY, SPARKLE & HELL UP IN HARLEM.

Come the morning of the Lord's rebirth, and the sun was the brightest it had been in months. It was the dawning of a new season, a pleasant spring day of warmth and simple laughter. "You look beautiful," I said to Jodie, who wore a angelic vintage black dress with a wild rose design, dainty earrings and a small pumps made for both church and sticky-floored movie theater's.

"You look quite dashing yourself," said Jodie, straightening the tie I was forced to wear with my new Barney's three-piece, while my boys wore the latest shit from A.J. Lester's-- fuzzy Kagols, colorful double knits and a pair of marshmallow shoes with a heel high enough to leap tall buildings in a single step. With her slight West Indian accent and colonialistic manners, her voice sounded like rain.

"Where I come from Easter is more like an Ebony Fashion Fair than a true religious experience," I laughed. "Even derelict niggas are wearing new dirty clothes."

When she giggled, I could feel my cheeks turning red, so I turned around quickly and spoke solemnly to the other girls: snagger-toothed Rhonda was the only babe Voodoo Ray could convince to follow him across the street, promising that his witchy mom's wouldn't ever put a mojo on her; C.C. held hands with a little honey bee named Maria, who we had known since first grade; of course, Smokey was palming this hot fast ass he called Velvet. "Sez when she's older that going to be her dancer name, so she wants to get used to it," snickered Smokey. A beauty for sure, but Velvet was a pure peep-show kinda girl whose real name Smoke could have cared less about.

Nodding towards Voodoo's girl, C.C. joked, "Man, I done seen bigger legs on a table." We both laughed like cool jerks.

After creating a small production buying the tickets, we walked through the painted wood and glass doors, as the sweet smell of hot butter hypnotized us. Stepping onto the perhaps the most hideous carpet in the city, a multicolored number with these strange space-age designs and dried cola stains, we stopped for a moment to check-out the movie poster display cases on hanging on the massive walls: Fritz the Cat lounging on a love-seat, the New York terror trilogy of Death Wish, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3  and The French Connection; there was the Philadelphia freedom of Rocky, the take no bullshit stare of Trouble Man , the canine commotion of The Doberman Gang , the rodent love of Ben, the futurama of West World and Death Race 2000. 

A ornate chandelier from the theater's more glorious past--when it was still called The Dorset--hung from the ceiling. Usually we flirted with the pretty concession girls, who might've been sisters, making them smile as one scooped bags of popcorn and the other got the soda's, but today we hardly made eye contact. Making our way to our usual seats, hands overflowing with junk food, we bypassed any broken chairs where the springs were like coiled sodomites.

Opening with the perfect urban romance of Sparkle, which set the tone for young love in my time of sexual confusion, it only took me an hour to put Jodie's baby-oil smooth hand into my own. What would James Bond do in this situation? I wanted to caress her slightly hairy legs, taste her buttered popcorn flavored tongue and smell up close the rose toilet water on her neck. Needless to say, this desire scared me to death. "If you don't relax David," she whispered, feeling my hand trembling in her own. "Don't worry, I'm not going to bite."

By the time Superfly came on, the last feature of the blax-on-blax marathon, the most physical action I had gotten all afternoon was the cramping of my paw. Smokey had already changed his seats to the rear of the theater, where he was sure to be swapping spit and finger popping his way to pussy heaven; buck-tooth Rhonda had to be home early for Easter dinner with her extensive fam, so Voodoo--who I swore had a tapeworm from all the pig feet his crazy ma was eternally cooking--broke out too; C.C. and Maria, who had been dating since fifth grade, hugged each other in a way that was sweet, almost like husband and wife midgets with giant gravity deifying afros and matching gear.

With the spooky electric of Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack following wherever he might go, Superfly was my man. Played with by the brown sugar intensity of Ron O'Neal, whose movie name Youngblood Priest had to be the coolest tag since Jim Brown played Slaughter, he was a slick-haired, red-bone who happened to be the fiercest coke dealer in Harlem. Yet, even with his shag wall-to-wall carpeting, 8-track stereo and all the ivory powder he could shovel with the silver spoon he wore around his neck, bro still wanted to be out the game. "You livin' the American dream, baby," his partner reminded him, but all Priest wanted was one last big score before grabbing his fur-coated lady (Shelia Frazier) and jetting for Paris. Brother was on some straight-up international shit.

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