After dropping the check in an envelope through my landlord's mailslot I continue up the hill to the little neighborhood that likes to pretend it's not part of Oakland. I expected it might be deserted but it's busy, most metered spaces (free today) taken. I walk down the slope to my atm and pass a carloada of kids waiting for mom, the windows all open, heavy bass pounding, snare beats hissing.
The tune is familiar.
Keying in my password it coalesces: a cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." The joke—true?—about Britney Spears (this must be her cover, a post hip-hop arrangement) mixing up Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. One of those Quayle moments that becomes a meme, true or not, crystalizing a stereotype, a comment, popular backlash expressed as humor. Twain attested to the power of laughter, how nothing can stand up to it.
Before my reverie takes me into primate status tactics and the court jester, the exuberant voices of the three kids, probably all between 7 and 12, chime in:
And next we were moving on
And you were with me
(Yeah, with me!)
Moving on and singing that song with me
Singin', "I love rock 'n' roll
"So put another dime in the jukebox, baby
"I love rock 'n' roll
"So come on take your time and dance with me!"
The children are as vague about that last line as I am, but as I snatch my receipt and cross to the deli side of the street the song comes around again, the beats oddly martial, and the kids yell out with palpable delight:
... Yeah me!
... "I love rock 'n' roll!"
Inside Lucchese a crowd presses against the counter, the displays crammed awkwardly into the space making it hard to squeeze past each other on a good day. I suddenly feel self-conscious, almost paranoid. My number is 75, the counter approaching 69. A family crowd, so no awkward jokes.
Later, as I am waiting for my mild dry coppa and sweet rolls (sweet here in the Bay Area just means "not sourdough"), a customer walks in, a man in his 50s, and the boss hails him, introducing the young counterman with the loose '70s fro:
"This is my half-Columbian employee I told you about."
The young guy raises a fist and greets the older man in Spanish. They discuss their origins and when asked, the older man says he has lived here in the U.S. for 37 years.
The boss speaks up again: "His mother is from Ecuador but he grew up in New York, so he says he's Puerto Rican."
"But now I'm becoming Mexican," says the young guy.