Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungleby Edgardo Vega Yunque
Failed in all his career aspirations, recently laid off from Kinko's, and burdened with a frustrating anatomical shortcoming, Omaha Bigelow finds salvation on the streets of New York City's Lower East Side/center>/i>… See more details below
Failed in all his career aspirations, recently laid off from Kinko's, and burdened with a frustrating anatomical shortcoming, Omaha Bigelow finds salvation on the streets of New York City's Lower East Side in the form of a Nuyorican homegirl equipped with an array of powers to cure his problems. Their misbegotten romance transforms him from a perpetual loser to an overnight success, but fame comes with a hefty price. Omaha must soon struggle to remain faithful as he becomes entangled with an irresistible WASP law student and a sinister ex-CIA agent who happens to be her father.
Writing with a perfect-pitch ear for the American idiom, and vividly capturing the cultural landscape of postSeptember 11 New York, Edgardo Vega Yunqué challenges the received wisdom of contemporary life and its politics with vitality, humor, and an abiding affection for pop culture, youth, and American optimism.
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Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida JungleA Novel
By Edgardo Vega Yunque
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Edgardo Vega Yunque
All right reserved.
East Village 101
The night that Omaha Bigelow's life changed forever began quite badly. At around midnight on July 4, 2000, he was thrown brutally out of the Friendly Fire Club on Allen Street in the East Village. Technically, Allen Street is the Lower East Side, since it is the southern extension of First Avenue after it crosses Houston Street. The East Village esthetic, however, has seeped across Houston by two more blocks to Delancey Street. This is an odd area of New York City. The Chinese are marching northward from Chinatown, and the yuppies and artists are marching southward from the East Village. Bars and restaurants where young woman thespians average 8.7 percent trips to your table to determine whether everything is okay, and boutiques where you may purchase frilly slips to wear as a dress with combat boots, have sprouted along Ludlow and Orchard Streets, traditionally the site of shops where Yiddish has been spoken by merchants and shoppers for over a hundred and fifty years. A bit further north, in the middle of the East Village, is Loisaida, which is the name Puerto Ricans have given the area. The name Loisaida is a combination of a town in Puerto Rico by the name of Loiza and the Lower East Side. Linguistically exotic, Loisaida is a gallant and quixotic cultural attempt to dominate the geography even though renting is not the same as owning.
Omaha Bigelow was as high as a kite. Having consumed ten Rolling Rocks, taken no less than twelve tokes on several joints laced with a number of enhancements, and having innosed a line of Coca Cola at the Tenth Street apartment of his friend, Richard Rentacar, the leader of Carsick, the punk rock band in which he played bass, he was feeling no pain. Instead, Omaha Bigelow was feeling much too mellow to be permitted to remain in the club. The reason? He peevishly insisted on getting up on the stage and demanding from the bassist in Clowns Desirous, the featured girl's band, that she let him sit in. Between licks on the bass while they played their hit single, "Lick This," the insulted bassist, Rita Flash, backhanded Omaha repeatedly with her spiked right glove. She eventually managed to position him so that as the drummer slammed a cymbal she jumped up, and, as she was coming down, she kicked Omaha in the chest and knocked him off the stage. The dancers, delighted by this spontaneous entertainment, did not attempt to catch Omaha Bigelow as they usually did in punk rock venues. Rather than receive him in a welcoming gathering of upraised hands, they parted in tune with the music and watched him helicopter through the air and land thudly on his back. He crashed to the floor laughing, rolled around, grabbed at people's ankles, and attempted to get back up on the stage.
Mooko Pelujillo, the big dude who acts as peacekeeper inside Friendly Fire, intercepted Bigelow. The term "big" is too generic. Mooko makes Refrigerator Perry, the onetime 300-pound-plus pachydermian tackle of the Chicago Bears football team, look like a water cooler. With an appropriate bending of the left arm so that Bigelow's hand was up around the nape of his neck, Mooko escorted him to the door. Mooko explained to Omaha that he should stop fucking around and leave the bass guitarist of Clowns Desirous alone. When Omaha protested and said that he knew Rita Flash and that she had given him head plenty of times, Mooko increased pressure upward so that Omaha said fuck seven times in a row. Mooko then opened the door and spoke in Spanish to Tony Manganzon, the outside dude who was deciding who was coming into the club and who was not. Mooko outlined Omaha's behavior. Manganzon didn't respond in Spanish.
"Throw him the fuck out," he said.
"Word," Mooko said.
"Fuck," repeated Omaha.
When Omaha tried to resist, Mooko grabbed his spiky greenish hair with one hand, the back of his leather pants with the other, and lifted him up off the ground. Omaha Bigelow said he had as much right to get up there and play as that stupidass, Sting-looking Rita Flash. And who the fuck was he, big, stupid-looking, Puerto Rican doofus to be ordering him around, a fucking Nazi stormtrooper motherfucker? Mooko had no choice. Without even unhooking the velvet rope he heaved Omaha Bigelow in a rather majestic arc out into the summer night, catapulting him almost to the curb. Insult and injury, thought Omaha Bigelow. Fuck, he thought. Far out, he thought. What now? he asked himself.
He got up unsteadily and began walking. Turning the corner at Houston Street, hewalked east across Orchard Street, past the Turkish falafel place, the pizza shop, and a new Japanese restaurant. At Katz's, the famous Jewish deli, he looked in the window and, grabbing his crotch, made a couple of pumping motions at the Puerto Rican guys serving up hot dogs and knishes behind the counter. They doubled up with laughter and threatened him with their knives, indicating that they were going to stick him in the butt. This made Bigelow laugh. He turned his back on them, lowered his pants and mooned them. They laughed some more and said he was a pato, a duck, which is what homosexuals are called in Puerto Rican slang.
Bigelow crossed Ludlow Street, thought about going to the Pink Pony or maybe stopping in at Nada to see if Aaron Beall could let him audition again for his theater group. He changed his mind and kept going. He tried to go into the Mercury Lounge, a bar, but was refused entry. The same was denied him at the Bank, a club, next door. Fuck, he thought. He stood on the corner of Houston and Essex and waited for the light to change. When it was safe to cross, he raced madly across the wide avenue and dove in front of two School of Visual Arts coeds about to go into Nice Guy Eddie's, the restaurant-bar on the corner.
"Let me lick your pussy," he said and wagged his pierced tongue at them.
"Get a life," said the chubby blonde.
"Little dick asshole," said the skinny shaved-head one, looking like she was fucking Sinead O'Connor, thought Omaha.
As the two girls went into the bar, Omaha Bigelow lay on the sidewalk laughing but wondering how the hell they knew about his dick and the Penile Asparaguitis from which he suffered. Did they know Carrie Marshack? The bitch had kicked him out two weeks before because what? He didn't have a job at Kinko's anymore? Like working at Kinko's with stoned poets and Puerto Rican JUCO students was supposed to be a career? Fine, Fly caught him sleeping in the back and he screwed up Sander Hicks's copies. Big deal. It wasn't like Allen Ginsberg died again or something. Or like he had dissed Iggy Pop when he came in that one time to copy his passport. Iggy was cool. People were nuts.
And then there was the Puerto Ricans laughing at him and the young girls pointing at his hair and saying: gamara cura la mostaza cucaracha salsa tostones y pancaruco or whatever. He should learn Spanish. What the fuck were the Puerto Ricans so happy about? They were totally fucked up, everybody thought they were stupid, and they were always laughing and having a good time. They probably knew about his small dick. Carrie Marshack didn't mind. Why should anybody else? She was an Off-Off-Broadway actress and had told him she'd read that Liam Neeson was really hung. So maybe she did mind and that's why she kicked him out. He'd seen Richard Rentacar when Rita Flash was giving him head, and he wasn't all that friggin big. Maybe Carrie had told everybody in the East Village that he had a small dick. Shit, fuck the bitch!
All at once Omaha Bigelow had three urges. He was hungry, he needed a drink, and his dick was suddenly screaming to either find a girl or spank the monkey. Omaha Bigelow got up from the sidewalk, walked up Avenue A, and started to go into Two Boots. Too crowded. He crossed the street and went to the Two Boots pizzeria, ordered two slices and a Pepsi. The Mexican behind the counter looked at him inscrutably.
"You want anything on the pizza?" he said.
"Mushrooms," Omaha answered.
"Regular mushrooms or the good shit?"
"The good shit," Omaha said.
"You got it, cowboy," the Mexican said. "El Carlos Castaneda especial," he shouted, turning around and speaking in his sing-song Spanish to the dude in the kitchen.
When the order came Omaha reached into his pocket but had only enough for one slice and the Pepsi. Looking at him like he was a dumb gringo prick the Mexican behind the counter took the second slice off the paper plate, scraped off the mushrooms into a sheet of tinfoil, folded it, and put it in his shirt pocket. He threw the extra slice into the garbage, which made Omaha think of his mother and the poor children of India.
"Sorry, man," he said to the Mexican.
"No problemo, Americano," the Mexican said, doing a deep Schwarzenegger.
"I coulda ate the other slice if you was gonna throw it out."
"Si," said the Mexican.
Taking his food, Omaha slid clumsily into a booth and waved at some New York University students, three girls and a boy, sitting across the way. One of them, a blonde, looked remarkably like the actress Charlize Theron. Omaha told them he had gone to their school but hadn't graduated. When they smiled vapidly and said oh, yeah? he informed them that he had been kicked out of Tisch School of the Arts for making a twenty-two-minute black-and-white film of his repeated masturbations and one defecation which he then froze and supposedly ate. Two girls made a face and said ewww. The Charlize Theron look-alike said far out. Encouraged by the attention, Omaha Bigelow explained that he had shaped chocolate ice cream into turds and through "movie magic" he made it appear as if he was eating shit. Special effects, he said. He entitled the film "The Incredible Lightness of Being Omaha Bigelow." Spike Lee, at the time visiting the school, critiqued the film and said it was quite a personal statement. Lee added that Bigelow should've taken more care with the lighting, but his message regarding the plight of the white man in America was quite clear.
"What did you think of the eating scene?" Omaha asked Lee.
"I guess you had to have it," Lee said.
"Thanks," Omaha replied. "That makes me feel a whole lot better."
"They're gonna kick you out of school anyway," Lee said. "I'm sorry."
"No fucking artistic freedom in this country, man."
"You don't have to tell me, dude," Lee said. "I gotta go."
"Ciao, man," Omaha said. "Thanks for the critique."
Fuck, he thought. That was a long time ago. How old the fuck was he? Thirty-five? No fucking way. He was actually kicked out of NYU for distributing and posting leaflets asking a particularly sexy mathematics teacher at the school for head. He had her picture on the leaflet with a xeroxed copy of his enlarged, erect penis next to her mouth, which the big Oriental dude with the blue eyes at Village Copier on Twelfth Street helped him do. Timmy, who was the brother of the "Luka" folksinger chick, whatever her name was, he couldn't remember. He plastered the damn things all over the school's walls. No artistic freedom and no freedom of the press. Fuck.
He finished eating, slurped the last of the Pepsi and got up. He waved again at the NYU students, one of whom would probably give him the finger as soon as he turned around. Probably some literature major. The blonde smiled at him. Fuck, Omaha thought as soon as he stepped out into Avenue A and into a friggin late July blizzard. The snow was blinding and the wind was howling as he stepped through the snowdrifts watching tits bouncing inside girls' T-shirts, reading their tattoos and smacking penguins out of the way. Fuck. On Sixth Street a polar bear asked him for the time. It's obvious that polar bears and penguins don't exist on the same pole, but there were gaps in Omaha's education, and this was his mind. He looked at his watch and told the bear that it was one thirty in the morning.
"Thanks," the bear said.
"You're a polar bear," Omaha said.
"How come you speak English?"
"Asshole," said the polar bear.
"What?" Omaha said.
"What am I supposed to speak? Spanish?"
Excerpted from Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle by Edgardo Vega Yunque Copyright © 2006 by Edgardo Vega Yunque. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Edgardo Vega Yunqué is the author of the critically acclaimed novel No Matter How Much You Promise. . . . His stories have been adapted for the stage and anthologized internationally. He was born in Puerto Rico and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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