Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Evening in Bensonhurst: The Feast of Santa Rosalia on 18th Avenue

This evening we took the N train to 18th Avenue for the Santa Rosalia Society Festival,

which everyone in Bensonhurst calls the 18th Avenue Feast.

It was the last night of the Feast, and we got there around 7 p.m.

We walked past the block on 65th Street where we sometimes go to Starbucks and the building that used to be the Mafia-run catering hall La Perville where our brother Marc had his bar mitzvah reception in January 1968, when we were a senior at Midwood, to the start of the Feast at 68th Street.

Bensonhurst is nowhere as Italian-American as it was during our day, when we occasionally worked at our family's Pants Set store for women on 86th Street off 21st Avenue. (Think Saturday Night Fever.)

It's probably one of the most ethnically diverse places in New York, if not on Planet Earth, but this section of 18th Avenue is still Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, and it made us feel right at home.

As you should know, St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily.

Just like on our block in Williamsburg, the Italian-American residents of Bensonhurst were always primarily, but far from exclusively, of Sicilian heritage. But outsiders were always welcomed.

Actually, almost exactly twenty years ago, we were on our old block of East 56th Street and Avenue O in September 1990 when Spike Lee was filming Jungle Fever there. Flatlands stood in for Bensonhurst in that movie, and our neighbor's house was the one for the Italian-American family of Annabella Sciorria.

We love the Giglio Feast in Williamsburg, of course, in our own parish and just blocks away from our house, but there's no denying that 18th Avenue seems a lot more spacious. Tonight it was crowded but easy to get through and it doesn't give you that hemmed-in feel of a narrow street.

We are as much an honorary Sicilian as Tom Hagen, and if you don't like it, Fongool! . . . Hey, these teddy bears are wearing Dodgers uniforms! We remember when they played here!

Anyway, there were games and rides and lots and lots of food and people were out on this nice evening just taking in the sights.

You can't go wrong with free refills.

This player was a winner! Lots of people were carrying around stuffed animals that they won in street games.

And some won plastic bags of real live goldfish.

This little girl liked going up in the air like George Clooney.

There were down-to-earth rides, too.

This creature is from Spongebob Squarepants but his name escapes us. Luckily, we escaped going on his ride.

Some rides had lots of happy kids on them.

Some rides seemed to have nobody on them.

Some rides made you say "Gee whiz." Which reminded us to find a porta-potty.

We can say without a doubt that despite the crowds, the portable toilets here were the cleanest we've ever seen in our entire lives. Someone at the Santa Rosalia Society did a really, really good job there.

This made us very nostalgic, like for when we were 15 and talked tongue-tied to girls.

"Soak the Bloke" is always popular because of the guy's patter. He insults children with a devilish relish that never sounds perfunctory.

We thought twice about getting an air-brushed tattoo.

This clown seemed a little down, for some reason.

The amount of corn at the Feast would have made this a nightmare for Michael Pollan.

Who is Mateo and why does he have so much food?

This little boy was among many kids making artistic creations with colored sand.

We'd say that Spongebob definitely defeated all the Disney characters, at least on 18th Avenue.

Just being at the Feast made some people light up.

There were a lot of cheerful yellow things on display everywhere.

And young couples, too.

Portraits of historic figures were on sale at reasonable prices.

We weren't sure which of these women was the actual psychic.

New York's Finest took a break to eat sometimes.

This neighborhood now seems almost as Chinese as it is Italian, and almost as Latino as it is Chinese, and almost as Russian as it is Latino, and so on.

We don't know what "Scrappers" are. Oh wait! We read about them in the New York Times! They really are from here!

Some people kept trying at games just for the fun of it even if they never won any prizes.

More arepas! There was Spanish music too, as well as Italian music.

And even "The Sounds of Silence."

This boy was staring longingly at some dogtags.

We don't know where this man won a big plastic bat. Maybe he brought it from home?

Whee! Whee!

Che! Che!

Fall is on the way, and candy apples are the surest sign.

Summer's shishkabob had all too short a time.

Fried oreos, of course, are always in season. Many people look like they'd been indulging.

Going to the 18th Avenue Feast was a really great way to spend part of Labor Day weekend. We enjoyed it enormously.

Since the northbound N trains were running over the D track, we kept walking on 18th Avenue

for another nine or so blocks after the Feast ended at 75th Street/Bay Ridge Parkway to get the el at New Utrecht Avenue close by 86th Street.

We're really grateful for everyone who made the 18th Avenue Feast possible. It was almost more fun than humans should be allowed to have.

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