Palisades Park - 'I Got You Babe'

by Rick Beck

Chapter 4

New York State of Mind

Mike had shaken me out of my routine in a big way. I'd never met anyone who influenced my thinking in such an overwhelming fashion. He was smart and he'd been around.

In a few weeks my center of gravity had changed. I was a guy who liked things to stay the same.

Change had never been my friend but these changes exposed me to a side of life I'd never considered. None of the changes was at all threatening. If anything, my life was made far better by my contact with Mike.

I was careful making friends. I didn't know that much about Mike, except he always talked to me when he came to Duncan's apartment to do his paperwork. It didn't take long to find out much more and it was all good.

When we were leaving New York City the day I went there with him, I was already planning a return on my own. I wanted to see places I'd heard about. There was David to be considered.

We'd settled back into the routine we'd established before his bouts with insanity that had him trying to prove his manhood to his friends. I knew it was because of me but I didn't know what to do about it.

Things went back to normal in the weeks that followed and David went back to being the guy I loved.

It was October and while the days turned cool that time of year. It was a pleasant coolness after a summer of heat and humidity. If I was going back to New York City, I wanted to go while it was pleasant to be outdoors.

I decided to take David to New York City with me. He was use to the new apartment. He didn't seem to mind the city just beyond our front door.

I explained about New York City and I asked him to go.

" Sure," he said.

We'd been seeing each other for nearly two years by then. The biggest obstacle we'd run into in that time was when there was onion on his burger. I could deal with it.

Instead of eating after we delivered milk on Tuesday morning, I took the truck back to the dairy and had my paperwork done by ten and we were on the way to New York City as soon as I reached the car. We hadn't eaten and I planned no stops if we were going to get done all I had in mind to do. It would be a whirlwind two days. I was off Wednesday and we'd be home Wednesday night and I'd pick David up early Thursday morning for work.

We were coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel in the early afternoon. We parked a block from the tunnel at the first parking garage we came to. I knew enough not to try to drive around NYC.

We got a hotel between 42 nd Street and Broadway. From there we'd hit the subway. I knew what our first stop was going to be but I didn't tell David where we were going. David was with me. He went where I took him. He didn't have much to say but I saw his amazement about the city.

Our fifth-floor room looked out on a busy thoroughfare in mid-Manhattan. I opened the big glass window. I leaned out to smell the city. Traffic streamed past the hotel five stories below. The horns, the noise, the movement of people spoke of the vibrancy of this city.

I turned to see David happily bouncing on the double bed. It was bigger than my bed and I wondered what was on David's mind as he smiled my way.

Unfortunately we had a lot to do and taking time out to prove our love to each other might use the entire time.

"Come on," I said interrupting his bouncing. "We've got a lot to do."

"Does that include eating. My stomach feels like my throat has been cut," he said.

"Can you wait a little longer. You'll be glad you did,"

"Sure," he said.

I was starving to but we needed to get to our first stop.

We took the stairs down to the street two at a time. We left the hotel going toward the first subway station I spotted from the window. We were on our way.

"Stand here," I said. "Don't move. I'll be right back."

I asked the woman who sold me a dozen subway tokens how to get where I wanted to go. She smiled as though she would like to go too.

"Far Rockaway. Can't miss it. Track 5. Once you see the ocean it's on your right. Not crowded this time of year. You have fun."

"Yes, ma'am," I said.

We walked down and down deeper into the ground. I was following the sign to tracks 5,6,7. As the train came storming into the station, the front read, "Far Rockaway."

A minute and a half after the Far Rockaway train arrived it left with us aboard. We passed new shiny aluminum cars with windows that didn't open. You'd need a gas mask if it smelled anything like our car smelled.

I wondered how far Rockaway was.

The subway had a funky smell. I wasn't sure who might pee with all these people around. I was sure someone did.

I loved every thing about the city except riding the subways meant being exposed to a lot of grime and then there was that smell. I guess you got used to it.

Our one stroke of good luck came when our subway car was old and wooden with windows that went down even if it was only eight inches.

With all the windows down the air circulated as long as the train was moving. It allowed fresh air to circulate. That was a life saver if you liked breathing fresh air.

We needed a light jacket where we were going but it was a pleasant day and for the first time we could relax. I'd been on a mad dash since I got up and now we were heading out of the city and moving toward the shore.

Looking at how far the subway car's windows opened, I calculated it allowed fresh air to circulate but it wasn't open wide enough to circulate someone out of it.

The day was bright, the sky a vivid blue as the train moved north and the city faded behind us.

David's hands rested on top of the open window. He looked out of the opening. You couldn't see through the grime on the glass.

David's expressive face had filled with wonder.

I hadn't asked him what cities he'd been to. His intense blue eyes studied the landscape. He took it all in as the high-rise towers began to move farther and farther apart as we put distance between us and Manhattan.

I didn't ask what he was thinking. Now, I wish I did. I wish I'd done more for him. When you're with someone and it's the someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, time is limitless. It seems like you have all the time in the world but your time might be running out. The closer we became the more permanent it seemed to me.

That day life was never better. As we moved out of town and toward a place David was going to enjoy, I knew what David liked and my plan was to shower him with fun and excitement. It was right up his alley and mine.

Ain't love grand. It was nearly perfect that day.

I didn't tell him we were going to Coney Island. As soon as we left the subway car he lit up. You could see the rides from the elevated subway station above Coney Island.

The Atlantic Ocean stretched out before us. It's a difficult combination of delights to top. It amazed me to see it for the first time and we wasted no time getting down the stairs to where the action was.

I'd been hearing about Coney Island and Nathan's hot dogs all my life. Once I decided we were going to New York City, I decided on our first stop being Coney Island.

We hadn't eaten all day. I knew if we were going to get everything done, we had to be in the city shortly after noon. Once we were in New York, we could have eaten anywhere but I made up my mind we'd eat at Nathan's and that became the plan.

It was probably harder on David than on me, because he'd never heard of Nathan's hot dogs. If he'd heard of Coney Island, he didn't know we were going there.

He never complained. He mentioned eating only once and we were there now. All's well that ends well and we dashed toward the large Nathan's Hot Dog sign.

We inhaled the first few hot dogs. I started off ordering a half dozen. I figured it would get us started and I order two Cokes as we stood beside the mustard, relish, and onions that I piled on eat dog.

Juice dripped off our chins from the juicy hot dogs. We stood watching each other stuffing hot dogs into our mouths. I'm sure the cashier wondered where the hell we came from. We'd come over two hundred miles to eat those hot dogs and it was worth the trip. Nathan's did have the best hot dogs I'd ever eaten. Of course I was starving.

We were laughing once we'd eaten four or five hot dogs a piece. I could see David turning a little green as he tried but failed to get one more dog to follow the other five. It simply wasn't going to go and he sat the remainder down.

" Man, those were good," David said.

" You going to forgive me for starving you all day?" I asked.

" You're forgiven but I couldn't eat another one of those if my life depended on it. I'm stuffed," he told me.

" Hey, the cashier said. "Have one on the house. I'll throw it in for free."

" No way," I said, and the cashier laughed.

" You guys were hungry. Sorry I didn't have a camera to taken a a movie of you. It would be great advertisement."

We walked away happy and we carried our Coke with us. I knew the next stop but David was way ahead of me. He'd already spotted the Cyclone. It was hard to miss the way it stretched out toward the Atlantic Ocean.

From up on the elevated subway platform it looked as though it ran into the Ocean at the far end. What red blooded American boys wouldn't find that irresistible?

David and I certainly did.

Once again I made David stand back from where the business was done. I had a plan and I bargained with the ticket seller for six rides a piece. Knowing David as I did, When he asked, "Can't we go again?" I would be ready for him. We went to stand and wait our turn. It wasn't crowded.

The closer I looked the more it looked very much like it was of a rickety construction. It made a calamitous racket, broadcasting its location to anyone at Coney Island. When you looked, you knew where the cars were along the way, and if you couldn't locate it because of the noise of the cars, you could locate it by the scream.

As we stood, I could hear it down at the far end of the ride, where it looked in danger of falling into the Atlantic. We could hear the screams and it sounded like maybe it did fall into the ocean.

It didn't.

The rickety sound and clackety clack told us it was on the way back. The screams accompanied them along the way. Victorious yells told us that man had once more conquered the machine, but they weren't done yet.

The cars were flying straight for us. They couldn't possibly stop in time, but it suddenly braked and crawled to a stop, after eliciting one last gasp from the riders. People scrambled out laughing and retelling the most exciting part.

There were ten cars to pick from. Six people got off and staggered away. David and I sat together in the first car on our first ride. We'd see what the Cyclone was all about in close up.

It jerked into motion. It clicked, clicked, clicked as the chain pulled the cars up to the top of the first rise. It was a second or two while we were racketed over the peak and began to point downward as the other cars followed us up the hill. Without warning we plunged straight down, around a curve up and down dips, and we shot up toward the sky, never slowing down before the next plunge took my breath away.

I looked at David. He was smiling from ear to ear.

This was great and we screamed at the same time, lifting our arms above our heads as we plunged into the next drop and were thrown together on the next curve before we went up and down again.

We were carried away by a machine that didn't know its limits. It flew straight up and shot straight down. It curved, turned, dropped, and went straight up again. We laughed we yelled, we screamed, we thundered directly toward the Atlantic Ocean.

We hurtled out of control and there was no way we could stop in time to keep us out of the Atlantic but we jerked left, swung out over the water as we were pressed together on an impossible turn. Then we were roaring back in the direction we came from. We dipped, we climbed, we jerked and fell all at the same time and as we came around the final turn, facing a certain disaster, the brakes stopped us in our tracks and the ride was over.

David had an amazing look on his face and we were both laughing. I'd heard the Cyclone was the best roller coaster in the country and I believed it. It was great.

I wasn't sure my insides were going to stay inside and as we coasted forward, failing to get out when the other riders did, David asked with high hopes in his voice, "Can we go again?"

I held up ten tickets.

" Of course we're going again," I said.

" Kewl," David said.

I handed the man two more tickets.

" Lets sit in the last seat," David said.

We got out of the front car to get into the last. We were going to see the Cyclone from every angle. We were already laughing when the ride started again. This time we knew what was coming and we couldn't wait.

"This is awesome, Dude," David said.

" Yes it is," I agreed and as the front car plunged it yanked us over the crest with it. It was like riding the tale of a tiger. We didn't dare let go, except to hold our hands in the air and scream bloody murder.

No one could ride the Cyclone just once. At least we couldn't. I knew David well enough to be able to anticipate what he'd want to do. We screamed until we were hoarse and we screamed some more.

We sat in the front. We sat in the back car. We sat in the middle and then we sat in the back again. After six rides, we'd had enough. I could hardly walk down the ramp that took us away from the incredible Coney Island Cyclone.

We were in the midst of our best day together. We went on a couple of other rides. Once you went on the Cyclone everything else was child's play. It was time to go.

" You had enough, Kiddo?" I asked him.

" Yeah, we did what we came to do," he said.

It's true that going back from a new place goes a lot faster than when you go. In no time we were back in the City. We were gone for three hours and came back satisfied.

" What's next?" I asked.

" We haven't been to the movies all day," David said. He'd seen the many marquees on the way to the hotel. We walked along the avenue checking out what was playing. David stopped at Von Ryan's Express and War Wagon. "This one, Started a half hour ago. We can come back in an hour and catch both features and be in bed by nine."

" I've been up since four. I need a break," I said.

" And I've only been up since four thirty. I can see where you'd be way more tired than I am," he said.

" We can go back to the room and stay there," I said.

" No, we can't. The movie starts in a little over an hour."

It did and we'd be in the audience when it started.

It was rush hour when we got back to Manhattan but everyone was going out of town when we were coming back. Until we got out at the subway station near the hotel, it wasn't too bad. I wanted to eat again but I wanted to get off my feet even more. We could eat before the movies.

How far could six Nathan's hot dogs take you? Not far.

I couldn't believe how good it felt to lie down as the city buzzed around us five stories down. David didn't want to lie down because if we got in bed together, we'd miss the movies but that didn't stop me from watching him.

" You having fun, David?" I asked.

" Yes, this is great," he said excited. "I like New York."

I looked at his beautiful eyes and handsome face. He got more beautiful every day. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be with him.

"What?" he said in a familiar way.

"You know what," I said.

He laughed. He knew what.

I couldn't get enough of him. I wanted it to last forever. I'd never been happier than I was at that moment.

David was perfect for me. I didn't know there was great love. I'd never been in love with someone who loved me. There was no love at my house growing up. I wasn't liked and I didn't like it. I didn't particularly like people.

Learning about love and affection was quite a reach for me. I knew I was gay since I was seven or eight. I'd been with other boys since I was nine. I knew it was forbidden but compared to life at my house, it was the only human contact I'd had up until then.

I didn't know the word gay. I looked up homosexual before I turned ten. I knew it meant me. How did I know that? I don't know how I knew but I knew.

Now I was having a great love. How strange was life?

I lived a nightmare as a child. Now I was having a great love. I didn't know the meaning of the word love. I didn't look it up because I knew no one knew how to define the word love. It was like one of those gigantic concepts that only Albert Einstein could define, but there was no way to define it in terms anyone could understand. You knew love when you found love. If you didn't find it bad on you.

My life had been pretty ordinary until David walked up to the side of my Harvey Dairy truck.

. Life was weird. I didn't expect anything to come out of it for a long time. Then there was David and he was my everything. As long as I had him, I'd be OK.

I'd seen the sign for the Automat. It wasn't far from the hotel. I'd heard about it and I didn't know I'd get to see one. When you went inside, you were facing a lot of clear plastic doors big enough for some dish to fit behind it.

On one wall there were entrees. Chicken, fish, meatloaf fixed in a variety of ways. There were sides on one side and desserts on the other side. Everything was behind these little clear doors. Entrees might be fifty or seventy-five cents. It was all done with quarters. Mashed potatoes might be fifty cents. You put in two quarters and opened the door to take the dish you select out.

The best part was looking through those clear plastic doors. You could see people preparing the food and putting the dishes behind the clear plastic doors. It was an amazing concept. I'd never seen anything like it. The best part was the food was good. It all tasted just like what it was supposed to be.

As with everything David did with me. It tickled him to put the quarters in and take the dish out. We were there for fifteen minutes and used up three or four dollars in quarters. There was a guy there to give you quarters for your bills.

It didn't take long for us to be buying tickets for the next showing of War Wagon and Von Ryan's Express in that order. I walked up the stairs to go into the balcony.

David said nothing. He followed me as usual.

You learn things about people if you spend enough time with them. I thought I knew most things about David and I didn't expect there were things I didn't know, big things, I didn't know about him. I was about to find out one of those big things.

Half-way through the movie David did something strange. He got up from the seat beside me and moved down to the first step in the lowest part of the balcony.

What is this all about?

David is no longer with me and now I'm watching him. I didn't care about the movies but what was he doing..

What's he doing? When we go out together David rarely leaves my side. He says nothing and he gets up and moves.

To complicate matters a guy about David's age gets out of his seat and he sits beside David on the step. Now I'm pissed and I don't know what he's doing.

The guy sitting beside him says something to David and he replies. The guy goes back to his seat.

I'm fuming. I stay where I am. After the movie is over David returns to the seat beside me. I say nothing to him.

Later, once we left the theater, I've calmed down enough to ask him,, "Why did you go sit on the steps?"

I'm not prepared for his answer.

" I couldn't see."

It was like he punched me in the face. I'd gotten angry and all he wanted to do was see the movie. He couldn't see. That's why he hated school. Now it made perfect sense.

What else didn't I know about the guy I loved?

Yes, I bought him glasses. No, he wouldn't wear them once he passed the written part of his driving test.

" You hungry?" I asked as we left the theater.

" What do you think?" he asked.

He was always hungry.

We passed what smelled like an Italian restaurant. We stopped to look in the window. A sign said, 'Seventy-five cents for a plate of spaghetti with a sauce of your choice.

" Smells good," David said.

" It does," I said, and we went inside.

You paid for the spaghetti, drink was extra, garlic bread was tossed on the table once you emptied the basket that came filled to the brim.

Like everything else that day. It was great. I got mine with meatballs and then I got a plate with Italian sausage. David stuck with meatballs for his second try and neither of us could half finish the second plate. We'd spent five bucks and stuffed ourselves. What wasn't there to like about that?

We were ready for bed as soon as we got to the room. I fell right to sleep. David was in my arms of course.

The following morning, we got up early to go to Palisades Park. There was no fooling David this time. It was written on the bus we took just before seven on Wednesday.

There was a special giveaway to the first fifty people to arrive that morning. We took the first bus and we were given a shopping bag of gifts when we purchased our tickets.

I'd describe the gifts in the shopping bag as junk but one man's junk is another man's treasure. We discarded most of it before going into the park, except for two candy bars and a single 45 rpm record by Sonny & Cher, 'I Got You Babe,' and David latched onto it.

I learned something else about David. Not only did he need glasses, but he listened to records. David was extremely polite; in most cases he'd ask if he could have something but the record was his. I don't know what that meant. He could have anything he wanted as far as I was concerned.

His thumb went through the center of the record and met his forefinger on the other side. I'd never have thought of that. It worked for him. He carried that record all day.

No matter what rides we went on and there weren't that many that interested us at Palisades Park, David found ways to hold the record and not lose his grip. I wouldn't have gone through all that trouble for Sonny & Cher but David did. I never asked why it was important to him.

We stayed until noon. Leaving before we had time to get breakfast and David needed to stop to eat every few minutes. We had all the junk we could eat and we'd ridden the best rides a couple of times.

I looked at David as it was approaching lunch time. I couldn't eat any more junk.

"Have you had enough yet?" I asked.

"Yeah, maybe we can get some real food in town. I've got sugar running out of my a'hole," he said.

"I'd like to see that," I said.

"I bet you would," he said and he laughed.

We raced to the bus stop and in about forty minutes we were back in the city.

"I vote for the spaghetti place," David said.

"Kewl," I said and we stopped at the same restaurant where we end up the night before. It was on the way to the garage where we parked the car and after we ate we were ready to head home. It had been a wonderful day and a half.

We only sat for a few minutes at the Lincoln Tunnel before we began moving toward New Jersey and the Jersey Turnpike. We pointed the car toward home.

In four hours we were turning onto David's street.

"Can't I stay over tonight?" he asked.

"What did you tell your mom?"

"I'd be home Wednesday evening. She doesn't care if I stay over," he said. "I can do what I want."

"Let's not push it, Kiddo. Why not stick to what you told her. I'll pick you up in the morning and we'll be together all day. Then I'll pick you up Friday after I get off. We'll be together until Sunday night. You can check to see what movies you want to see this weekend."

"OK," he said.

When I stopped in front of his house, we looked at each other. This was the part I never liked. I'd see him in the morning but I never liked watching him walk away.

After a minute of keeping his baby blues on me, he said, "See ya."

Opening the car door, he got out and I watched him jog up the steps and walk toward his front porch.

In his hand, held between thumb and forefinger, the 45rpm record, 'I Got You Babe.'

Did he ever.

I never loved anyone the way I loved David.
I loved you then.
I love you still.
My wish for you remains the same.
Be happy, David.
Just the beginning.

Today, we are all Urkrainian.

Glory to Ukraine to brotherhood and to peace

Peace & Love,

Rick Beck

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