To get to the Lemon Ice King of Corona, especially on a day when the 7 train is running express, you walk from Junction Boulevard in Queens. The walk is half the pleasure.
Under the elevated tracks, you go past the botanicas and tarot card readers, the driving schools and tortillerias, the women at sidewalk stands blending fruit into juice. You walk past the giant, flashing signs for Corona Oral Surgery–the ones that inexplicably advertise OB-GYN! OB-GYN!–and turn right onto 104th Street, through the land of barber shops.
You keep walking until Corona turns Italian, the wooden telephone poles painted red, white, and green. You pass Leo’s Latticini and Mama’s bakery, where the mozzarella and cannoli are made. On past the churches and funeral parlors, then a left on Corona Avenue, walking on until you see it in the distance—the baby-blue sign for THE LEMON ICE KING OF CORONA.
Since 1944, they’ve been making the ice. They don’t mix flavors, don’t give out free samples, and while they now offer plastic utensils, it really isn’t correct to use them. You eat your ice directly from the cup of pleated paper. You do this while you stand around on the sidewalk. People show up in crowds, in waves, the line bending at the curb. Then they all disappear and it’s quiet. A local character shows up and asks the iceman, “How’s it going?” He gets his answer and replies, “Could be worse. At least you’re not in a third world country. You know what they do in third world countries? They kill their own people. In Syria, a kid was arrested for making graffiti. His parents were told, ‘Get another kid.’ They killed him! For graffiti!” The guy takes his ice and goes, comes back again for another ice, another story of tragedy in the Third World.
It’s Indian summer, or more Global Warming. The locust trees along the sidewalk are turning gold. The Mets have just one game left to play. At the Lemon Ice King, the candy apples have appeared, another sign of the changing season. A new crowd arrives, taking vivid colors into their hands—pistachio green, cherry red, blueberry blue. No one buys a candy apple. They’re not quite ready to give up the ice.
Jeremiah Moss is the award-winning author of Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York (vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com). His writing on the city has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Daily News, and online at The New Yorker and The Paris Review. He has been interviewed in major newspapers around the globe.