September 18, 2005 at 6:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Interesting thing about my neighborhood–sometimes it really does feel like I’m in a foreign country. Take for instance today’s “walk about”. I decided to do a little shopping, so I headed south on 18th Ave. toward 86th Street, which is really the heart of Bensonhurst. As you pass further and further down the streets, the languages change from a mix of Italian and Chinese to a mix of Italian and Russian. The store fronts do the same–Gino’s Foccoceria gives way to Xiang’s Chinese Kitchen gives way to a mix of Russian letters I couldn’t decipher, translating to “Good Mediterranean food” apparently. And like in any foreign country, there’s a healthy mix of Americanization–McDonalds, Burger King, the Gap.

As I headed down 86th Street, the same place John Travolta struts his stuff in Saturday Night Fever, I pondered just how much this neighborhood has changed over the years. It’s amazing to me to live in such an old city–400 years and counting. I’m sure there wasn’t much here in Bensonhurst (also known as New Utrecht) 400 years ago, but this neighborhood certainly has an interesting past. It was notorious stomping ground for Italian mafia leaders–with some remnants today in the old Italian men’s exclusive societies that run up and down our street. It’s also known for a race riot that killed a young black man in 1989. And, of course, there’s the Feast of Santa Rosalia, which I expounded upon a few weeks ago. Today it’s mostly 99 cent stores and garbage on the streets, which makes me a little sad. I think at one point Bensonhurst had a hey-day, but it has definitely come and gone. I get the sense that most of the English-speaking Italians resent the somewhat recent “invasion” by the Asians.

OMG, as i’m typing this, James ran in to get me–there’s a parade in the middle of the street! Have no idea what Saint that is in the back of the pickup truck, but it’s definitely Italian:

So maybe I was wrong….there’s a little more life to this neighborhood than I thought. Or at least they’re trying.

Books for this week:
Old Mr. Flood by Joseph Mitchell. Piqued my interest because it’s about this old guy who lived in Chelsea, which is where I work.
The Writing on the Wall by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. Also about New York, but more contemporary, and mostly about 9/11. Honestly, though, I picked this up because the main character’s name is Renata and she speaks a bunch of different languages. Sounds just like my Renata 😉
Dragon Rider by Cornilia Funke. No, I’m not obsessed w/ dragons right now, I’ve just been meaning to read this for awhile. One of Jill’s recommendations, and she never lets me down!


The Feast of Santa Rosalia

September 2, 2005 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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So I finally checked out the festival on my street. Click here to see the photos. Interesting backstory–apparently Santa Rosalia of Palermo was a cave hermit who saved some people from the plague in 1624. An annual feast is held in Palermo in July, and in Bensonhurst in September.

Course, now there’s not much religious ceremony to the feast. In fact, I’d say quite the opposite. Gives the local Brooklyn girls a chance to whore it up at the dance booth (which, incidentally, is right outside our window). I never thought myself a prude, but I really can’t believe what these girls are wearing. It’s MTV beach party without the celebs. I blame Britney Spears.

Noticed a lot of psychic booths, as well. I’ve never had a psychic reading, but I figured I’d give it a whirl. The “psychic” I saw didn’t look much older than me, and while screaming at her 3-year-old to stop digging through her purse, she read my palm and told me my future. She glanced at my palm for like a second, then focused on my face. She was purposely vague, which I was expecting, but she did say a few things I’m filing away–like that James and i are definitely moving to Chicago, it’ll happen after the first of the year, and we’ll be much happier there. Exactly what I wanted to hear, but we’ll see if it actually comes true. Now, the part about popping out kids in the next two years, and having 2 boys and 1 girl, that I’m not so sure about…

Son of a….

August 19, 2005 at 6:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Thank you, chinese market next door whose name I can’t even begin to pronounce, for dumping your waste water in the street at 5:30 this morning so our apartment now smells like a fragrant mix of truck stop men’s toilet and rotten fish. I guess four hours of uninterrupted sleep is too much to fucking ask.

August 1, 2005 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Bensonhurst is finally safe! This morning I saw an armed police officer standing on the 18th Ave. platform near my apartment, keeping an eye out for suspicious-looking backpacks. Actually, he didn’t seem very attentive at all. In fact, maybe he was just on his way to work. Do cops use the subway?

At any rate, I’m sure he found the assignment boring. From my experience, the old Italians pretty much bully out any unwanted riffraff. A couple of months ago, James and I came across a rather shabby-looking, black pan-handler just a block down from our apartment, the first we’d ever seen in our neighborhood (panhandler or black). We soon realized why. Right as we walked past, this old Italian dude started giving the guy what-for, cursing in both English and Italian, and gesticulating in a manner that I could only assume meant “buzz-off”. The guy got the message and walked away. I never saw him again.

I wonder what that old Italian guy said? Or what all these Italian guys who stand out on the street corners with their friends and have animated conversations are saying? All I know is “ciao” and “bella”–usually used concurrently by young Italian males and yelled incessantly at you if you’re a pretty girl. Or, really, any girl.

James is learning French for work (he interviews lots o’ West Africans), and he bought this foreign language computer program for French, Italian, German and Spanish. So here’s my chance! I’ve already gone through correct pronunciation and the alphabet, and on my next available evening, I’m moving on to basic vocabulary and grammar. I may still not be able to understand those Italian guys on the street corners (doubt this thing will teach me any swear words), but at least I’ll be better prepared for our next trip to Italy. Firenze, Venicia, Roma…ah, yes, those were good times. It’s high time we went back.

New York drivers

July 14, 2005 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I was right! New Yorkers have no idea how to drive! Not that dodging taxis in intersections didn’t clue me in to this already, but this is definitive proof. Check out these CSI crime photos from in front of my apartment…

That’s my front door, and on the ground is the unfortunate victim.

See those pieces of headlight? Yeah, definitely a motor vehicle, and likely a big one.

Yep, ripped the sucker right out of the ground. Poor thing didn’t stand a chance.

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