Tuesday, October 04, 2011
None of Us Go
You can read tomes about Italy, look at photos, see videos and films, and speak to native Italians, but you will never know Italy until you finally get on that plane for the first time and go there. When you arrive, you will have that Aha! experience that I am sure you have had in other ways before - so this is Italy.
Like an old friend not seen in decades, you will recognize many familiar things in his face, but the essence of the man himself is much more than a few big pieces. The image you have conjured prior to visiting Italy will be seriously devoid of the many, many things which will never be written of - the mundane, the inconsequential, the trivial, the ubiquitous, the details, the customary - yet these are the things which comprise the bulk of day-to-day existence.
Someone living in New York City may be here for decades and never set foot in any of the major iconic tourist attractions or even those places reported in guides to Secret New York, Forgotten New York, Not For Tourists, etc. Because for the New Yorker, like anywhere else, the city is about the corner deli, the laundry, the nondescript row of houses in an average neighborhood. Who would want to read about or see images of such things?
I have featured most of the major attractions. However, I have also endeavored in these pages to bring you the side of the city not typically written about or photographed, to show the real New York. I have woven into my stories many anecdotes to make the ordinary as accessible as possible. Like many of our wonderful ethnic cuisines, I have taken the basic staples and prepared meals with spices from my personal cupboard to make them as enjoyable as possible to eat. I have written about chewing gum on the sidewalks of New York, car washes, and other very ordinary things.
Perhaps some of my stories have come as bitter medicine that you may not want to take. But all of my efforts have been like that of the mother who only wants the best for her child. I do not only want to share my joys with you but also the slings and arrows of living in New York City.
On a recent journey to Coney Island with a few friends, we found ourselves drawn to the Piramide Discount Store on 16th and Mermaid Avenue. My friend Leslie (see White By Design), a graphic designer by trade, was all abeam with the store's tidy and colorful displays and arrays of every imaginable item for sale. The sign outdoors proclaimed: toys, candies, grocery, bread, kitchenware, hardware, houseware, stationery and Mexican products. More succinctly put, a true general store. Not the quaint country store which has been restored and has historical and architectural significance. No, this is the real neighborhood place that everyone there knows and where everyone there goes, but none of us know and where none of us go…