Take Laura Fedora to the beach this weekend.
“She rolled her eyes in that way of hers that can make me feel naked (not the good kind) and then marched inside. So I sat there curling and uncurling the ends of the placemat. After a while I got bored and looked around the yard. Apart from the garage and fig tree, I hadn’t noticed much else till now. There was another tree at the far end of the yard, a mimosa, I think, with those little pink blossoms that look sticky and Japanese. Its branches curled over the roof of the garage, almost covering it completely. It was a nice little yard, the kind you see all over Philly, except this one was special: it belonged to the girl of my dreams.
“Finally, Enz came back and the four of us piled into the Corvair, which had the top up cause, as Enz put it, ‘it’s gonna rain, you know.’ I looked over at Laura, but she stuck her tongue out at me. I wanted to sit in the back with her and almost did, but then it didn’t work out cause of leg room or knees or something. She sat behind Enz, which wasn’t so bad, because I could still turn around and look down at her feet and toes. Nonno sat behind me, hacking into a dirty hanky, and I sat there praying he didn’t miss. He wore a Philadelphia Athletics baseball cap and started talking in English (I think it was English) about the ballpark, the team, and a friend of his in the roofing union who knew Connie Mack. Enz turned the radio up and we sped down Broad Street while KC and the Sunshine Band played “Shake Your Booty.” He and Laura did all the moves, which I thought was pretty funny until I remembered how she shaved him and then I got jealous.
“We found a spot near the ballpark, which was lucky, because it’s a pretty sketch neighborhood now. You wouldn’t want to walk too far down Somerset or Lehigh or anywhere else with all the drug addicts and hoodlums. People get mugged there all the time and most of the stores are gone. Everybody’s leaving the city and moving to places like Conshohocken and King of Prussia, where the air is clean and the sidewalks are made with fresh cement and there are shopping malls with escalators and food courts with neon lights and Slurpee machines. We got out and walked two blocks to the ballpark, but as soon as we turned the corner I just about dropped dead, because it wasn’t what I expected. There were bulldozers and a wrecking crane and dump trucks crawling all over the place. They put up a chain link fence around it, too, so you couldn’t get close even if you wanted to.
“We stood there kind of stunned, and I noticed other people looking the same, nobody talking, the men shuffling here and there and the women standing perfectly still with their hands on their hips, some holding babies. A couple of guys my age, public school types, were horsing around on the corner opposite us, which would have been annoying except you couldn’t hear them over the grinding, chomping, chewing, and belching of the equipment. It was awful. It was like watching a wounded animal being eaten alive by lions or that scene in The Old Man and the Sea when sharks swim right up to the fish and tear chunks of meat off the bone while the old Cuban goes spastic, cursing and shaking his fist. Like those sharks, the men in the machines went about their work like it was just another day. Some even looked bored, which made the whole thing eerie and not at all the next best thing to sex or even holding hands.”