Monday, January 28, 2008

We used to go down to the ice cream place at the end of the road, and then you turn left and there it is the next intersection. Down a hill, past the peeled-paint, haunted barn, and up a hill, and down another. To a place called Four Corners, due to the fact it's an intersection four corners result. Gas station, gas station, gas station, ice cream. A farmer's market when it's warm, in one of the parking lots of a gas station. The ice cream place was called Kathy John's, and it had this idiotic old-timey theme, a sign with a silhouette of corseted woman on one of those bicycles with the giant front wheel. Suppose she was Kathy. Inside, the high school kids who worked the scoops were required to wear candy-striped vests and little fucking red bow ties and those fucking beribboned straw hats that remind you vaguely of Mark Twain or someone in an Impressionist painting who has a mustache. There was a replica of a nickelodeon that showed little grainy black-and-white films of what I want to say were Victorian women in scandalous states of undress and engaged in all manner of unseemly and ungodly activities, all the glorious uns at once, but I'm pretty sure that's another memory. It was maybe really the Keystone Cops.

When I dawdled in the morning before getting dressed for school my mom would say, "Put a nickel in it."

They piped in the ragtime and the dixieland nonstop I do not need to tell you.

There was also inside of Kathy John's a retail store for candy and it seems to me that the entire place, maybe ten feet wide by thirty feet long, was stocked with varieties of rock candy and rock candy only. Rows upon rows of jars of rock candy rods in every imaginable color and flavor: lime, root beer, raspberry, butterscotch, chocolate, tangerine, cherry, orange, green apple, strawberry, watermelon, lemon, blueberry, cinnamon, ginger. The favored configuration was the rod. Like the radioactive rods they put in the water in nuclear reactors to provoke the steam, I suppose, but a whole lot smaller and a whole lot sweeter.

So I'd had these rods from time to time and I recall even shoplifting a fistful or two but the big idea was the ice cream. We'd go there after dinner sometimes and there was never any junk in our house, that was the type of family we were. So it was a pretty big deal, going down to the end of the road and left and up and down to Four Corners.

Something today in the 42nd Street subway station reminded me of vanilla ice cream cones from Kathy Johns, anyway. The place was a restaurant too, with corned beef sandwiches and onion rings and hot dogs and shit. With the menu all dolled-up and cute to look like a newspaper from 1912. So I remember the cold, cold plain sweetness of the vanilla ice cream, with steam coming up off the top, the almost meaty quality of the first bite you take when the ice cream's still hard, and you get that shock to your solar plexus and to your brain because it's so cold, and there's the faint smell of fry oil in the air, oil that's had onion rings and fries. Anyway, it made me remember.