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What, You Expect Us To DRIVE To The Carousel Mall?

It is with a heavy heart that I report The Orange Express is no more. I never actually knew it officially as The Orange Express, I think I just knew it as that little trolley we rode as freshmen to the Carousel Mall so we could eat General Tso's Chicken in the food court and shop at The Wiz.

But when I think of that train, mostly I think of a fateful day that will forever live on as...The Legend of Crowbar Joey...


It's Spring 1997. The ice had thawed. The birds sang. Instinctively, freshman emerged from the Brewster/Boland complex ready to take on this fresh, new world. With the city at their fingertips, the best idea their Keystone Light-addled minds could come up with was to head over to the
local mall to go see a movie.

S
o, six brave souls, yours truly included, ventured across the road to the train tracks and awaiting the arrival of the train. The six of us waited impatiently, as anyone who took the "Express" knew that it was anything but. And being the idiots we were, we didn't bother finding out the schedule. And so we waited. And after about a minute, boredom set in. Across the way from the platform there was a signpost. At our feet...rocks. You know how this goes.

So there we are, chucking rocks at a sign just because its there and because we can. All of a sudden, a car comes screeching around the corner and it's heading towards the train platform. I start to think "Man, this guy really doesn't know the logistics of this train schedule." But then he gets out of the car. He's angry. Actually, he's furious. And he's staring daggers at us.
He starts coming towards us, yelling something about "motherfuckers" and "my fucking car" and it slowly begins to dawn on us. That signpost we're throwing rocks at? It's at the edge of a small drop-off. And what's below that drop-off? A road. I feel a little like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind piecing it all together until I realize that A Beautiful Mind hasn't come out yet so now I'm just confused.

Now before I forget, this guy who was just going about his business before his car was pelted with rocks...he was the epitome of "young Italian guy who is way too into The Godfather and knows
somebody who knows somebody who's connected." I don't know if this is actual or just my over-active imagination but I seem to remember him wearing a track suit. That's up for debate, but there was no debating the gold chain hanging off his neck.

Tough Guy McGee starts making his way towards us when all of a sudden the passenger door swings open. A girl emerges. And she too is Italian. I say that not so much because of how she looked, but because of the thick accent that accompanied her words that came out of her mouth next:

"Joey...come back here, Joey. Whattya doin'? Joey, let's go, baby!"

Seeing her emerge from the car was like walking in the woods and coming across bear cubs. All you start thinking is "Oh shit, where's the mother? Where's the mother???" Joey was that mother.

The girl, let's call her Antonella (just because), goes after Joey and tries to calm him down but it's too late. It's a perfect storm of anger. He's Italian, he's with his girl, his car has been damaged and six snot-nosed college boys who likely think they're better than him (Ed. Note - was true) are the culprits. This is the end, my friends. Tell my mom I love her.


But wait...Joey turns back to his car. He's leaving? Whew, he finally saw the light and realized this was a silly misunder-...wait a second, why is he going to the trunk? What is he...OH FUCK!!! Joey just pulled a crowbar out of his trunk. I turn to gauge the reaction of my three friends behind me but they're already running. The funny part is that they started running AWAY from Brewster/Boland. Where the hell were they going?

That left three of us. Antonella is pleading desperately but it's no use. Joey has a crowbar and he's going to use it.
Among our friends, there's only one of us you would consider a big dude. He's a Midwestern kid and he's probably 6'0, 250. He's also the nicest kid I've ever met. Also left is my friend who hails from a small town in Upstate New York. He's lived his entire life there yet somehow has a Southern accent. He's also the toughest guy in the group, hence the staying as a dude with a crowbar approaches. As for me, honestly I don't know why I stayed. I was surprised as anyone that I didn't high-tail it with the others. Maybe I was just REALLY hoping the train would come any second now and we jump to safety...as it stopped directly in front of us on the platform.

As if understanding the Rules of Engagement, Crowbar Joey went for my large Midwestern friend. My friend was trying to talk him down the entire way but Joey was having none of it. He swung! He hit my friend in the shoulder. It was clearly a warning shot. But my friend didn't budge and neither did we. It was just like the O.K. Corral and my Midwestern friend was Wyatt Earp, my Southern Upstate New York friend was Doc Holliday and I was a whore watching from the saloon window.

And just like that, Joey snapped out of it. Perhaps he realized the only course of action was to continue beating the life out of all of us for scratching his Trans Am and that just wasn't going to fit into his schedule that day. He started heading back to his car and he stuffed the crowbar back in the trunk. He then let us know that he was heading back to his neighborhood to recruit some of his Italian friends and they were going to come back and make life unpleasant for all of us. Clearly, Crowbar Joey was nothing if not a fair man. If we were going to get our asses kicked, it was going to be by a quorum of like-minded individuals rather than by one. They both got back in the car and took off in the direction he came from.


We checked to make sure Big Midwestern was alright and he was. Thankfully, even in the spring you wear lots of layers in Syracuse so he was protected by his puffy jacket. The three 200-meter-dashers made their way back and we shared the preceding events with them. We started wondering if Crowbar Joey was going to make good on his promise to bring the pain and we decided to err on the side of caution.
We ran for our dorm.

Back up on our floor (Brew 9, bitches) we stared out at the train platform, assuming any minute now that a convoy of Trans Ams and IROC-Zs would pull into the parking lot and each driver would
emerge with a weapon in hand, each one crazier than the one before. Whereas Joey provided the crowbar, it was only a matter of time before Anthony showed up with a bat, Tony showed up with a lead pipe, Ant'ny rolled up with a hammer and Antonio whipped out a medieval mace.

For the next ten minutes we waited. No one ever showed up.

Finally, in the distance we saw the train approaching and we booked it out the dorm. We got to the train, paid our $2 or whatever it was and told the story of Crowbar Joey to each other as if it were already legend.

Honestly, I don't remember anything about what we did at the mall that day or what else happened but all I know is that for the rest of the year, every time we looked to that train station we looked for Crowbar Joey. You could say that we're looking today still.


I often wonder what Crowbar Joey is doing now. I imagine he's living on a farm somewhere. With Antonella. Or maybe her best friend. And they're happy. But the crowbar is still sitting in the trunk of his car. And it waits. It waits...

So fare thee well Orange Express. More than the unforgiving, tattered, leather cushions on your seats and the 5 mph top speed in which you took us on our way, I will remember you for your simplicity and your place in what was one of the most fun years of my life. I could have never drank at the mall without you. Nor could I have seen The Ghost & The Darkness (a highly underrated film about killer lions) at the Carousel theater without you. I will miss you. But your legend will live on.

Just like Crowbar Joey.