2000s Archive

Spun Heaven

continued (page 3 of 3)

“What’s the difference?”

“First of all, it’s more sanitary,” she says. “Second, it appears better. But mostly it’s an old-fashioned thing. People ask all the time, ‘Do you have cotton candy?’ And once they see it’s on the stick, to them it’s better.”

At that moment, as if on cue, two men wearing the uniforms of the Metropolitan Transit Authority appear at the window. “Hi, honey!” they cry out to Flores.

“These are my favorite customers,” she whispers.

“Got any cotton candy?” the pudgier of the two men asks. He could have stepped out of a doughnut ad, 40 going on 14. Asked about Flores’s cotton candy, he ignites.

“She’s the best,” he says. “Plus, she makes it right in front of you. It’s better than those manufacturers. They cram it in the bag, and it’s flatter than an old shirt.”

We discuss various aspects of cotton candy. What’s his favorite color? “Pink,” he says. “Cotton candy should be pink.” Stick or no stick? “Stick,” he says. “It’s traditional, period.” What’s his favorite eating technique? “Grab a whole bunch and let it melt in my mouth.”

“So how long have you been coming here?” I ask.

“Since the ’50s.”

“And now you work right here for the MTA!”

“Yeah, More Trouble Ahead.”

I now realize I’m dealing with a regular Jerry Seinfeld; he hasn’t missed a beat since he appeared at the window. I finally get around to asking his name.

“Alfredo Miranda,” he says. “You have the right to remain silent.”

With Miranda and his buddy gone, the moment has come for me to take the plunge. Flores has quietly spun a half-dozen sticks of cotton candy, deposited them into plastic bags (“with the air inside!” she notes), and hung them from a line above the candied apples. It’s now time to replace the sugar, and while it’s heating she hands me a cone, which I place between my thumb and forefinger, as I’ve seen her do.

When the web first appears, I stick the end of the cone in the middle, spin, dip my arm, put a little body English into it, and before I’ve gotten the first spiral around the cone, I’ve inadvertently let the spun sugar touch the central plate, creating a singing sound and leaving a skid mark of crusted sugar around the outer edge. I quickly pull the cone from the bin and stare: My creation looks more like an old mop than a feather duster. I have failed miserably.

“Not to worry,” Flores chirps, taking my fallen soufflé, quickly wrapping it with a fresh layer of airy poof, and declaring the effort a salvageable success. She winks, sticks the concoction in a bag, and places it on the line. “You’d never think it was messed up,” she says.

And maybe she’s right. But just in case, I take it from the line, offer a dollar, and save some future grown-up boy the disappointment. Making cotton candy, it turns out, isn’t child’s play. Clowns need not apply.

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