Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sagra! Pt II

The rides disappear overnight, the same way they arrived.  The temporary fence and port-a-potties are gone by noon the following Monday.  An entire workforce descends on the three-block radius of the St. Anthony's Italian Festival the day after it ends.  The streets are swept, the grass is cut.  And most importantly, the orange cones and lawn chairs are retired until the next festival or blizzard, whichever comes first.

Living the Italian Festival each year is different than just going.  If you don't embrace it in your neighborhood, you'd better plan to be away (or at work) for eight straight days.  But, with the recent addition of admission for attendance, it seems to have regained some of its family appeal, even if attendance is visibly down from years past.  June just wouldn't be June without the smell of funnel cakes and fresh cut grass when the festival rolls into town.  Still, a lot of those traditions I could live without.  

The authentic egg rolls, for instance, with their prime real estate right on Scott Street across from the raffle.  Really?  Okay.  I guess.  Two-to-one more people say they can't wait to get a panzarotti, that folded up cheesesteak-come-pizza that is- *urp*- deep fried.  I know everything fried is supposed to taste better, but there are so many other wonderful things offered, including homemade pappardelle from Pomodoro Ristorante this year; the texture was exquisite, the flavor rich and heady.  

Then, there's the parade on the last day.  I'm certain Francis Ford Coppola did a little research right here in Little Italy for the parade of Saints in GFII.  The syncopated drums that echo off the stone buildings and the unintended Doppler effect from the brass section create the feeling of a dilapidated hurdy gurdy inching its way up the street toward what could only be a parade of fallen saints, not canonized ones.  And the heat?  I know, it's not something you can control, but after suffering six years of marching band, I understand the real cruelty of literally parading and marching in 90+ degree heat, wearing black polyester while toting a heavy instrument and staggering your breathing between keeping tempo, keeping in step and keeping from passing out.  As my grandmother would say, "That's a sin!"

And then there's those cones.  The ubiquitous orange construction cone, which is seconded only by a lawn chair, of the folding variety, when you need to simulate a driveway in Little Italy.  The following is a list, in descending order, of what can be officially used as a replacement for "the cone" or "lawn chair" driveway.
  • White plastic deck chair
  • Garbage Can
  • Bar Stool
  • Milk crate
  • Lamp
  • Hat rack
  • 3rd cousins, aunts or uncles seated on said lawn chairs, bar stools, milk crates or hat racks.
In short, anything that could be mistaken for garbage but wouldn't be missed if stolen. 

On the final day of Sagra, locals realize it's their last chance to get that once-a-year pastry, final lemon ice with vodka or dance to one last tarantella before the synthesizer and tambourine get put away.  When she saw the rides gone, my daughter said wistfully to herself, "I love the big ferris wheel."  I know baby, I know.

Last night I retired to my stoop with a glass of wine as I had habitually done for the previous eight days.  It was quiet and sleepy on the streets of Little Italy.  In a kind gesture to the surrounding residents, the church turns off the street lights in the surrounding lots, playground, etc. the week after.  When I went up to bed, I tripped and almost walked into a wall, it was so dark.  And, it was hard to get to sleep before 11:30 with only the sound of the neighbor's air conditioner droning in place of the refrigerated beer truck.  

I'm not a betting man, but I'm pretty sure that Aldo was sitting home with his feet up, a shot of anisette in hand watching the World Cup.  Grazie, Aldo.


Joie said...

Thank you Rob. Thank you from all of us that can't be there. You really made me feel like I was...I can now close my eyes and smell the festival! hear the kids, the rides with their clanking cotter pins. I so miss this festival!

Mike said...

Rob: have attended many a festival in my day, but lived through one in my 'hood. Every week in Boston's North End, there's some kind of Italian festival being celebrated. I think we hit the "C-" version last summer when family was visiting. The big event was a parade of about 20 people walking through the streets, asking spectators to pin dollar bills onto some plaster Saint. Your festival sounds a lot more lively!

R said...

Mike- that must have been the festival of St. Bernard, the patron saint of lawn ornaments.
Pinning the Cash to the Saint is old school; around here, a shady guy collects the dollars and keeps them in a roll in his pocket. Saint cards are distributed by a "buffer".


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