San Gennaro

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Occasionally I get the odd idea in my head for a mini-adventure and this weekend I decided to revisit my youth and talked Kim into hitting up the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy. This idea first scratched at the back of my brain when Kim and I were in Chinatown and Little Italy a few weeks ago as banners were already going up for it.

Then yesterday morning I was reading the local version of The Patch (does everyone have this ultra local newsletter? I am amazed by some of the things I find out reading it), which cheerfully informed me that the festival had commenced and would end its run this weekend.

I missed the Fireman’s Fair just blocks from my mom’s house this summer by a few days. I have written about that (here) and again, I haven’t been to it in many decades, but thought we might time a visit right and go but no, it didn’t work. So I guess I had a yen for that sort of thing – cotton candy, candied apples and the smell of fried dough against a background of rides and games of skill and chance. Kim was game so off we went.

For those of you who don’t know, the San Gennaro festival is an annual tribute to the aforementioned saint. This tradition in Manhattan’s Little Italy dates back to 1926 when immigrants from Naples congregating on Mulberry Street brought the festival to this country. Neapolitan’s had long looked to the saint for protection from natural disasters including eruptions from Mt. Vesuvius and he is the principal patron saint of that city. (For the record San Gennaro was martyred back in 305 AD and his miracle is the liquefaction of his blood after his death.)

The official statue incarnation of San Gennaro, surrounded by dollar tributes.

We missed the Mayor and former Astronaut Micheal Massimino in the kick off Grand Procession where the statue of the Saint is brought out for a walk around the grounds as well, complete with (unidentified) relic of the saint. Evidently the stands are also each blessed as the festival opens. All that happens on September 19 which is the day San Gennaro was killed and the beginning of the festivities.

Instead, we tucked ourselves into the hoards of people, early enough in the evening so no one had tipped over into overt and inevitable drunkenness from the impossible large and refillable plastic vessels of sugary well booze for sale. These days the air was also thick with the smell of pot mixing with a lot of more traditional cigar smoke. That combined with the smells mentioned above and a lot of roasting meat contributed to a carnival atmosphere.

Looks like it goes on forever from here but the entire festival is about ten blocks.

My expectations, based on the last time I attended which must have been back several decades (maybe as many as three) were kept fairly low. Kim hadn’t been since his days at Pratt, once on the year Connie Francis was celebrated. He didn’t see her, but they played her records (a selection of her international songs he remembers) and after a quick Google search it turns out that she also attended again in 1982 and yet another time in 2012. She’s clearly a fan of the festival. While we heard a band playing the theme from the Godfather at one point, music was not very much in evidence this year, recorded or live.

There was a smattering of rides with long lines of anxious small children.

I will say I was disappointed by the quality of the prize offerings for the games. No goldfish which is a good thing I am sure, but really uninspired stuffed toys. Usually I can pick out a sort of best of or favorite, but these were definitely bottom shelf. Of course I am a more discerning collector of toys now as well. Just as well as I do not think Kim or I had the skill to achieve in this arena. We did see one guy really having at the bottle knockdown stand. It is beer bottles these days and some were getting smashed.

The best selection of prizes I saw.

I did get a candied apple – one of my goals for the evening. They were much less prevalent than I would have thought, but I found a stand. (There turned out to be two places you could acquire them; sadly they are less popular than they once were.) Kim bought it for me and it was a traditional one with coconut pressed into the candied part. Yum! After breaking into it, and always the challenging part of the candied apple and the most hazardous to dental work. This makes me think in all fairness to my teeth I may not have many more candied apples in my future and will focus on cotton candy in the future perhaps. Kim seemed quietly mystified by my passion and took one adventurous nibble.

A blurry view of my half eaten candied apple.

A young man selling frozen ices from a cooler asked where I had gotten it (clearly a fellow candied apple fan) and I pointed him in the right direction, only up half a block from where we were in the slow moving crowd. He told his female partner to watch the ices and he’d be back in half a block’s time which made me laugh. I like a fellow partner in candied apple crime.

Dinner at the first joint we found outside of the festivals boundaries!

We ended the evening by circling back up and around to Kenmare Square where we perched at the edges of their outdoor dining space and ate a real dinner instead of standing in long lines for plates of fried food, meat or pizza at the festival. It was a satisfying end to the evening’s adventure.

Fall Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Like most of us, mid-September flips the back-to-school switch in my brain, honed by decades of school shopping (hard new shoes for feet that had grown) and the purchase of lunch boxes, notebooks, pads and Ticonderoga pencils to be sharpened. When very small, clothes came from my grandfather’s store or the Sears catalogue. Later there was a mall where over time I would shop for my clothes on my own, with my sister or friends.

As a tot if shoes were to be acquired they were purchased from a store called Sid’s in the next town over. (There is an excellent Italian market where Sid’s used to be. I stop there occasionally when in Jersey to buy soup for my mom or maybe a prepared dish or two. However, I always remember Sid’s too.) While they may not have sold children’s shoes exclusively (that sort of exclusivity was not as prevalent in 1960’s and ’70’s New Jersey suburbs and there were fewer speciality shops) they seemed to have a lock on the local market for children and sent us away with balloons, coloring books and Buster Brown type trinkets annually.

Kislin’s in the 1980’s but more or less how I remember the facade. This was the annual sidewalk sale in Red Bank I believe.

Sneakers, however, might also come from a store called Kislens one town over in Red Bank. Kislens would not only supply sneakers (of course a much more basic model of Keds and a vastly limited array than we are dazzled by now), but it was also the purveyor of gym clothes, uniforms, boots and any and all athletic related items and necessities. (I wonder, did every town have one of these?)

Kislin’s was close to a century old when it closed around ’05 and one could find items from prior decades peeping out from top shelves and cabinets, layered under and around more contemporary items. My memory is of wooden cabinets, fixtures and shelves that likely went back to the store’s origin. Even in my childhood, the floors creaked heavily when trod on. It felt like you could never truly get to the know all of Kislin’s hidden secrets, but whatever sporting needs, nascent or advanced, camping or scouts, Kislins would magically produce the necessary items when requested – they weren’t much on devoting space to display. When you embarked on an outdoor activity or sport, a trip to Kislin’s may have been on the agenda. All of the Speedo bathing suits of my youth were purchased there in a no fuss, no muss sort of way until well into my teenage years.

A rather excellent bit of chalk drawing recorded on the first part of my run last weekend.

Meanwhile, speaking of sports, last weekend enjoying the first lovely cool morning for running in a number of weeks I was feeling great until I fell just as I was reaching mile 8 on a run that would have been my first approach on 9 miles. A bit bloody, but luckily not badly hurt (nothing broken and a thank you to the runner who helped me up and the gentleman drinking ice coffee on a bench who even gave me ice for my hand), I ran home and still recorded 8.8 miles. However, it has kept me sidelined this week while my knee fully recuperates, as well as my hands, one of which took the brunt of the fall. Therefore, I found myself walking to work on Wednesday, through Central Park when I had my back-to-school moment. The light was pure September and the trees are just starting to consider embarking on their winter waning.

End of my walk to work Wednesday in Central Park. Anyone know what these flowers are? I thought jasmine but they didn’t smell like it.

Unlike my childhood incarnation, instead of sporting a new outfit to celebrate a post-Labor Day turning over of a new leaf, I had pulled on a pair of pre-pandemic pair of trousers getting their first outing in several years. They were fine except the running has moved muscle around and things from the Before Time are pulling in some places with new muscle (calves!) and evaporated from others (thighs!). In the end this may be what ultimately empties my closet of these frozen in time clothes at last.

September light in the Park.

When I got to the office my colleagues all seemed to be in a similar fall frame of mind embracing the new season, but a bit confused. We are all still struggling with the hybrid routine, days in the office together, others at home. Every meeting starts with a technology hiccup as we work the bugs out of new conferences software. (Move the camera please, and Can you hear me? I can hear you.) From home earlier in the week I realized one conference room has a zone where everyone sounds like they are Charlie Brown’s teacher, or vaguely underwater, made worse of course by wearing masks. (Can you all move to the other side of the table please?)

Pictorama readers and IG followers might remember that Kim and I purchased this in Chinatown over vacation, a new lucky waving cat for the office.

Several new folks joined the team in the weeks before Labor Day and they are still learning the ropes including which conference room is which – all are named for Jazz legends which adds a bit of complexity as we thoughtlessly toss out Jellyroll or Lady Day (the one with the sound issue) confidently and they just look at us befuddled. Computers remain a mash up of desktop, personal laptops, iPads and whatnot as new equipment has been delayed in being rolled out. Sometimes whole meetings happen with our colleagues of site represented only by my phone in the middle of the table, eating battery which I will forget until it is dead later in the day.

As for me, I can’t seem to stay on schedule in person and as meetings run long I blow through others or end meetings early because my timing is wrong. I try to make sure that those who are joining on camera are included, as well as being present for those in the office. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings take me out of the office, exacerbating the timing issues. It is exhausting. Eventually, I come home, work a bit more and collapse each night. Fall is here.