[The War on Fun: By Wilfrid: May 4, 2007]
Okay, it may not be fun to fainthearts who fail to see the joy in indigestible sausage links, bouncy castles, and religious icons on sticks, but it's a largely harmless piece of carnival which has been entertaining locals and attracting tourists for, oh, some eighty years. I refer, of course, to the festival of San Gennaro, the annual summer tribute to the patron saint of being carried through the streets.
Crowds? Laughter? Get rid of it. So say the street permit tyrants. As ever, there are complaints about incidental abuses. Gambling occurs at the festival. Fine: stop the gambling. It's leaves trash. Fine: make them pick it up. The "Mob"? Oh, go watch some more TV. And then you come to the sacred heart of the matter: it's noisy.
Quoted in Chris Shott's piece for the Observer, one Father Grifone nails it: "I cannot understand for the life of me how people who are non-Italian want to move into an Italian neighborhood, knowing that Italians live there -- and they're noisy people. By nature! Ya go to Italy? They're singing in every square" (Observer 4/30/07). Now, one might deplore the Father's stereotyping, and also wonder just how many Italians do live in the neighborhood any more. But the nub is this. You move into Little Italy and then complain about it being Little Italy? Because, after all, whining about the San Gennaro festival, or the restaurants, or the weekend pedestrian mall, or the tourists, amounts to nothing more.
And this is a real battle-front in New York. We have people moving into cheap apartments above punk bars in the East Village, then whining about the loud music. Next we will have newcomers to Chinatown trying to get restaurants closed down because of the smells. I am being objective here: I don't like little Italy - not since Mare Chiaro, that glorious oasis, was wrecked anyway. Nor am I inclined to celebrate the procession of a wooden dummy by eating bad street food. But the way things are going, I may have to go and parade down Mulberry as a matter of principle. Support the right to make a loud mess every September: festival site here.