"E quanto mai, 'na pala a pulito o ghiaccio 'nterra?"
said the the shopkeeper to his attentive patrons as they argued about Italian municipal politics. Ironically, a Neopolitan's commentary on Rome's ability to cleanup after a storm.
It is this kind of background chattery that keeps drawing me back to Arthur Avenue. It's like a auditory treat for me, and today the treat was especially sweet. The usual cast of characters was particularily vociferous on this sunny Saturday morning. Anthony and brothers from the indoor fruit and vegetable stand were constantly shouting aloud as they juggled a few escarole heads across the market floor. The very very efficient counter help at Mike's Deli was singing in their very own baritone ways tunes from old Napoli, a kind of secular choir paying homage to great food and fresh produce. And to all of that musicality, the pizza crew in the in the corner shop, just directly opposite to me, seemed to follow a choreographed routine as they prepared and stacked great looking pizza for waves of hungry customers.
But the special treat of the day came from a rather large crowd of folks on a guided Saturday morning tour of Little Italy in the Bronx. The crowd included characters from all over the world. You could tell this from the way the spoke, from they way the looked and from how they dressed. Among them were a few Italian tourists - you can easily spot them from their sharper sense of style in their clothes and accessories - who were analytically taking in all the details of what the NY Italian-american experience had evolved to in perhaps fewer than two centuries. I even overheard some Brazilian Portuguese, which with great affinity, fit in perfectly in a place where the Neopolitan dialect acted as a Lingua Franca.
These explorers were listening, they were buying produce, pastas, snacks and lunch delicacies to eat right there and then. You could see in their faces , in thier smiles and in their words, the content feeling of exploring one of the great remaining Little Italies of the world. And when they had munched away, when they had chowed down with subdued voracity all that the market's stands had to offer, they got up, raised their heads and looked for the silly flag their guide raised. They then filed away in a chatty, yet orderly fashion. They must have noticed that someone was observing them, and that someone was me with my notebook and pencil.
|Arthur Avenue Flag|
Sitting at a little table in the center of the market is a real pleasure, an exercise in quasi-meditative relaxation during which I can let my mind roam through old and more recent memories of my hills, my mountains and everything in between.
Time to do some shopping and stock up on the most recent arrivals at the nearby pork store.