Feed on

In winter the ashen stucco houses shaped like Camel cigarette-boxes squat before the Bensonhurst bay-mist. Bensonhurst, low, flat, rheumatic marshland, is a realtor’s reclamation project. Many of the streets which may be compared to the booming oil cities of the Oklahoma country seem to have sprung up over night. The houses are a makeshift stage-setting for a slapstick comedy. The materials of which they are composed are dirt cheap. They are job-lot houses.

At one corner is Gravesend. In the cold neutral months it has the muted stare of an empty tincup. Ten minutes from there by subway is Coney Island.

Sometimes on rainy afternoons Jerry Calefonia’s bicycle shop, opposite the street-taxi station, is closed down. Then everything inside is a still-life with the exception of the goldfish. Like Woolworth’s 5 and 10 cent toys they wheel monotonously through a glass jar of faucet-gray water.

That afternoon Jerry had shut up shop to take in the movies.

The Bensonhurst moviehouse recalls the dated red-light district— the old Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago or San Franscisco red-light town. The general interior has much of the lewd dopefiend Japanese café and danchall about it. Otherwise there is a dungeon-silence and darkness throughout the theater.

Public school children were scattered about the audience. A very sexy picture was being unreeled on the screen. The head of Jerry Calefonia was partially dipped in the silver dust which tipped his ears and hair as it flowed river-wise toward the white sheet. He was sitting in one of the back rows next to a young girl. he had intentionally taken a seat there. Toward the finish of a Harry Langdon comedy he had tried to touch her leg. She did not move to another seat although there were plenty of empty ones in the same row. This made him hopeful. And under cover of his overcoat he reached after her again. But she only recrossed her legs and swung them Indian club fashion over one another, flipping the hem of a chinese-red dress lower over a pair of round-moon knees. In the dive-darkness of the theater they were as regulgent as a 75-watt mazda bulb. Jerry Calefonia squirmed. Chanson triste was ebbing slowly, intermittently distilled from a movie violon.
— Edward Dahlberg, from From Flushing To Calvary (1932)

Photo “Fucking Edward On The Roof, Reverse-Cowgirl” by Amber Tides banned by the Catholic League; Caz Dolowicz doth  protest!!

Kenny Wisdom adds: Anyone who has read Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude should also check out the story “R.I.P. UNICRON” by Dallas Penn (and vice versa). Their audiences don’t, I think, overlap much, although their interests do. Be interesting to find out who’s seen Star Wars more often, Jonathan or Dallas; my guess is it’d be  close.

Leave a Reply