In August of 2008, I took a week off work for what I had hoped to be an uneventful "staycation." Unfortunately, I found myself, the Friday night prior to my week off, digging around in Chowhound. Nothing wrong with that. Except that this time I happened to stumble onto someone's Google map of every taco, quesadilla, tamale, burrito, and fresh juice truck parked in East Jackson Heights, Queens.
To the extent that my plans for the week involved nothing more or less than throwing my ass onto the couch and watching as many Hong Kong movies as I could cram into 168 hours, I was, to put it baldly, fucked.
And, though I managed to remain indoors glued to the TV Saturday and Sunday, sure enough, on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. I found myself wide awake, making a transfer from the G train to the 7. By 9:00 a.m. I was in East Jackson Heights, or "EJH," sucking down the most glorious chorizo sopes I have ever managed to squeeze between my lips. Forgive me if I do not recount my tamale and quesadilla experiences that same day; this is a PG-13 rated blog, and I plan to keep it that way.
While wandering around EJH, I took a series of photos, eventually finding myself in a bit of hot water after I took a quick snap of a funky bookstore in a sort of Jackson Heights-y "mall" type situation.
"I know the LAW!" the bookstore owner bleated into my ear as he grabbed my arm forcibly, trying to wrest my camera away. Had I had my wits about me, I'd have explained that I, too, know the law, and that--whether or not my taking a photo of his bookstore was legal--his grabbing my arm like that was, technically speaking, assault.
But, no; I was groggy from all of the cornmeal, cheese, chorizo, and beans. I deleted the photo of his bookstore as he watched, and moved on.
Perhaps it was for the best. In my haste to put distance between myself and this rather unpleasant experience, I stumbled upon an Ecuadorian bodega that seemed to stretch all the way back to Ecuador itself. One entire wall seemed to house nothing but CDs, glistening hauntingly, wantonly beneath their shrinkwrap. Rubbing my reddened arm, I slipped in.
I knew, and still know, next to nothing about Julio Jaramillo. Googling him this morning, I see that he was one of Ecuador's most popular singers, comparable to our own Frank Sinatra. He died young (aged 42) in 1978, but by then had recorded more than 4,000 songs.
I have no idea what happened to the bodega where I found this CD. I've been back to EJH many times, but have not been able to locate it again. I can, however, if you are nice to me, tell you where to get the best chorizo sope you can expect to find in the 718 area.