No creas que porque canto, ay Llorona,
Tengo el corazón alegre,
También de dolor se canta, ay Llorona,
Cuando llorar no se puede
Don’t think that because I sing, Llorona,
I have a happy heart,
One can also sing with the pain, Llorona,
When there’s no crying to be done
Bayside, Queens, New York, 1992…
We came to Bayside for one of four things: mom was taking me for a haircut, dad and I were going to see Ernest Goes to Camp at the Bayside Theater, mom was taking me and Peter, Jonathan, Antonio, and maybe Albert (and therefore Adrian) to Peter Pan arcade in Bay Terrace, or we were going to Donovan’s.
There were maybe six things we could have done in Bayside in 1991, down from seven or eight in 1990. The Throgs Neck at night was no longer on the table – driving to see a bridge at night was a real treat, all pearls over slender collar of evening cloud cover, dropping one by one into the seaway below – and really, my luck had run out a year earlier, and I could only be so choosy with my toll crossings since grandma and grandpa left Bensonhurst for Jersey.
And my feet stopped fitting into anything sold at Buster Brown’s on Bell Boulevard…
Along with Kissena and Main in my hometown of Flushing, and Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst between 70th Street and 65th, Bell Boulevard was one of my broadways. I did well there. Played well, from Northern Boulevard on up to Fort Totten – Welcome to Bayside, Groucho Marx lived here, signs and placards announced. Why would he ever leave? He had it made in Bayside.
Nothing could spoil a school night like Donovan’s.
the onions that thought. Don’t worry, Donovan’s of Bayside – this is all my suffering. Food aversion can strike at any time, and I probably misremembered where to place the visceral memories. The story must be told so that we may live. Don’t worry, there’s a pretty standard arc to these proceedings. Redemption and whatnot!
Nothing could embody a more potent duality in this then-10 year old’s brain-gut than the arousal of pure elation at the sight of a ramekin of Donovan’s French onion soup – a heaving blanket of gruyere cheese concealing every balloon flight of the imagination, and the wretchedness, the sky-tearing disappointment of having an…onion…
…anywhere near, let alone in my mouth, or between my teeth.
1992. Probably Year Zero of the No-onion Era for Jim Baker. And I know I’m not alone here. Maybe I’ve changed. Of course I have. Maybe you’ll have to wait for part two for further insights. After all, it wasn’t too too long ago that I was a “regular” at Bennigan’s on I-Drive in Orlando, Florida, and I would order the baked potato soup without chives, because I was being a petty, petty man.
But. Enough clienting for now. Thanks, readers!
Consider this an intermission. This post will come in two installments. To conclude Part One, we will visit the “lost future” of 10 year old Jim Baker, as told to present-day 33 year old Jim Baker, who currently holds the Key to the Ramekin of Great Ramifications. Revelations to follow in Part Two.
Bayside, in case you were wondering…some serious shit going on there.
2016: THE BATTLE FOR BAYSIDE
– 1 –
Deryk Rexx took one hard look at the ashy fingers of blue glass and twisted rebars that broke the line of the waterfront. Putting his cigarette out on the singed leather cowling over the fuel tank of his Goliath Mohican, Rexx slung his revocannon over his right shoulder and flicked up the kickstand. Balancing the nitrophene tanks crowded onto the back of his worn chrome chopper, he punched the ignition and revved the throttle.
The howl of chemical air had a crisp tinge of mayhem. The cadmium tremor of the last ten gallons of nitrophene in America rose up Rexx’s spine, shaking dogged lice off his chainmail duster.
Twenty-nine years had passed since the nuclear fires raged, pushing the sea back to the continental shelf. The “Short War” between the Russo-Cybertek Federation and the United North American Resistance grinded into its tenth winter. From the Conner Street Gate to the marshes of the Flushing Airport, the Resistance gathered supplies and men, weary but ready to launch one final assault on the wastescape that was once called Two Queens…
Coogan, Jynx and I rendezvoused with The Caller atop the Kosciusko Bridge.
“She’s yours tonight if you can win her. Mani Hati.” He gestured to the west, where the cherry sun ashed into the skyline.
“Who wants her… She’s clung to that bone of an island for sixty years. One shake and poof -“
“She was a beautiful dame in my day.”
“We’re here for the mint, old man.” The Caller raised an eyebrow. “Here’s what you asked for. Get us into Bayside.” I flipped the old coot a thin plastic cartridge with a ribbon of magnetic tape inside. Ninety minutes, forty five a side. That’s how long the music took – that was the only music I knew. Boring drek. Best left in the plastics. No one knew the words, anyway. Or dared to sing ’em.
No movement, no hunt, no fun. Maybe there were those movies that went along with the sounds. Movies of girls. Dogs, maybe. I never met a dog. Caller would know these things – that was his time, after all. He caught the cartridge and inspected it closely.
“I’ll be damned.” His scarred cheeks folded into two smiles.
“When you get to the La Guardia Checkpoint, tell ’em the code word. It’s easy. D-O-N-O-V-A-N-S. Donovan’s. You got that, okay?”
“Clear as the cancer, old man.”
I hollered to Coogan and Jynx, kick off. Oilfire orange, the sharp, sterile smell of hot technology. Heads down, we shot through the blue gloaming with the one destination in our heads.
The elevated highway slinked east through valleys of ash, beneath steel arches hung with old paper flags flying on our devil breeze. He was a bespectacled man-creature welcoming us kindly from his old paper banner: bald, with shining rat eyes noble rimmed with red, blue tubes – throwing these words at us:
“BEA-TIF-L CLE-R SKIN. TH-NK YO- DR. Z -ZM OR.”
This was the Rainbow Sign.
The Sure Sign. We were on Flushing. We hit the LaGuardia Checkpoint at golden hour.
To be continued…