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


Exclusive: “The Burning of Superflyville”

by Michael A. Gonzales

Excerpt from Babies & Fools, copyright 2001


Unfortunately, my own gangster boogie moves were slightly more awkward, having already banged Jodie in the head with my elbow when Hell Up in Harlem was playing. If it had been any other girl she might've jetted, but Jodie seemed to have the patience of an old soul; perhaps this was part of that woman strength that mom and Jill spoke about; maybe Jodie was the kind of woman who could guide her man towards paradise lights and shooting stars, while soft music played in the distance.

Sounding like the harps of noir winged angels, the chocolate bubble-bath of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love" began, signaling to the blaxploitation babies that the rub-a-dub of the candle lit love scene was beginning: as his smooth falsetto voice and floating Fender guitar hovered through the theater, I felt as though nothing could possibly go wrong. The love sexy arrangement that was bringing the screened couple closer to ecstasy had also began working its blissful hoo-doo on me and Jodie.

Still holding hands as we gently cruised to Superflyville, we drifted into a dream world where dancing genies conjured waterbed spells and beautiful girls wore glass slippers to basement slow grinds. Before I fully understood what was going down, I tenderly rubbed my fingers on the outside of Jodie's soft dress, kissing her moist lips as Curtis sweetly sang, "Don't worry 'bout no attitude, you just be yourself/ Could live with you in solitude and need no one else..."

Without talking crazy 'bout the world standing still or fireworks exploding from the balcony while Mayfield's tender voice guided us towards forever or the joyful fear of devouring forbidden fruit or the blur I walked through even after we left the movie house, lets just say I was not disappointed. For the next two months of school, Jodie and I passed notes in class, shared a morning supply of M&M's with peanuts, scribbled our names on each others binder with red Pilot markers, held hands at Rye Beach as the roller coaster zoomed and tearfully separated in the summer.

She had returned to her faraway island to visit her grandmother, who was sick and needed her help; in my mind, she was already gone forever. "I promise I'll write you,' she said, and keeping her word the first letter arrived on July 12,1977: dear david...have thought of you each day.  There are no big movie houses here, but I trust you've been keeping our seats warm in Superflyville with C.C.,Voodoo & Smokey. Just no other girls till I return!!! Love Jodie.

The following night, because of a power failure with the geniuses at Con Ed, the entire city went dark: street lights faded, elevators were stuck, tourists were stranded on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, excited voices screeched on Broadway and uptown soon became a madhouse of looters ripping metal gates from stores, carrying 19-inch television sets on top of there heads, racing through Florsheim Shoes while police dogs barked in the distance and a nigga everybody called Heart Attack threw a lit bag of firecrackers from a rooftop: bottles rained from the sky as the mad laughter of junkies could be heard over the cries of old ladies and babies, and all I could see for days was smoke and flames and the monster movie music of firemen climbing from crimson beasts, carrying their thick hoses inside the burning Tapia Theater.

"Alright kids, move back from here 'fore this building fall on ya!" screamed a giant fireman as a crew of his towering inferno buddies rushed the theater's doors, swinging axes as though they were freakin' lumberjacks: extending the ladder another scrabbled up to the roof with yet another hose. Standing next to Smokey and C.C. (Voodoo had gone south to see his peoples), neither of us said a word as we climbed on our bikes and quickly cycled through the chaos of the night.

"Don't look so sad, David," consoled Smokey a few hours later. Sitting on the stoop playing spades by flashlight while listening to random special reports on the radio, we could still hear the crazed Tarzan screams, police revolver shots and the metallic clang of overturned trash cans. "It's not the only movie theater 'round here. We still got The Roosevelt or the San Juan and I'm sure they'll build The Tapia back good as new."

Hours later, standing on a sea of trash and shattered glass as the morning sun created a prism on the sidewalk, I stared sorrowfully at the decaying corpse that was The Tapia. Managing to rescue a water-logged Superfly poster from the muddy wreckage, I thought of Jodie: splashing water in the ocean, constructing sand castles before the last wave, writing charming letters on rose-scented paper.

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