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
"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
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
"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
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.]