Sunday, September 04, 2005

from new york: attack of the brazilians

Today I wandered three blocks across town and ran into some sort of celebration of Brazil. I was impressed to discover that this was a celebration being run by actual Brazilians (unlike, say, Little Italy, which is essentially fictional, having been eaten years ago by Chinatown). I would say about half the people wandering down my street were actually of Brazilian heritage and many were actually even speaking Portuguese. They could even dance samba - somebody would start their CD player up, and even the tough looking young shirtless dudes would get little smiles on their faces and start shaking it. Not exhibition style, not for an audience, not parade style, but club style or highs-chool-dance-party style.

So this party is on 46th street, where I live, and I've been noticing that every sign that says 46th street also says "Little Brazil street," or something like that. A la "Avenue of the Americas." But more people seem aware of "avenue of the Americas" - If you addressed a letter to someone who lived on Avenue of the Americas, it would almost certainly get there. But I wonder if I wrote my mailing address as being on East Little Brazil Street, would the letters get to me? It's on every damn official sign, so why not? Anyway, these little names are all over the city. Second Avenue, Ma and I recently discovered, is also known as Yitzhak Rabin way. We walked over toward the UN building and found one piece of road that had no less than five green road names on a single pole. There wasn't even a cross street! Do these names actually count for anything? And if not, the VIPs so honored are probably aware that there is no great prize. If the public has to learn your name to write a letter, *that's* a good prize.

Anyway I thought this Brazil Day, or whatever it was, was actually pretty fun. Appropriately to their national circumstances, Brazilians are not really big fans of wearing lots of clothes on a hot day, and it was sort of fun, not even in a dirty way, to see all the men and women from the ages of 13 to 50 wandering about 46th street with more-or-less no shirts on. It's a democratic scene. And in my opinion, a step up from Park Avenue on a weekday, when everyone is wearing those hot sweaty suits or too-tight business blouses and ouchy shoes. There's so much midriff on Brazil Day there's hardly even any point in oogling. Have a midriff? Go ahead! Let it stick out! Have another deep-fried item! When you're 15 you can eat all of them you want, and your stomach won't stick out, but when it does, Brazil will not cast you out! You won't even have to take out your belly button ring. (Nobody is wearing rings anymore, just in case you are thinking about investing in one. Inch-long chains of diamonds is where it's at.)

Along with all the brazilian paraphernalia you also had people selling what I am quickly learning are the staples of every New York street fair, ethnically appropriate to their venue or not:

--Five dollar smoothies
--three-dollar pairs of Chinese slippers
--"Massagee? Massagee?"
--tomes and artifacts relating to Scientology

I guess these are the things that New Yorkers really can't live without. The universal cultural objects du jour around here. You can just see the street fair planners throwing up their hands. ("Ah well! I guess it just wouldn't be a party without the Scientologists!")

It also gave me happy memories of the triathlons I used to go to in high school with my dad - cheerful crowds of hundreds of middle aged yuppies (oxymoron?) - the most successful professionals of the area - schmoozing, fixing their bikes, adjusting their crotches, applying sunscreen, all in their tiny tiny athletic swimsuits. As a high school girl with, oh, all the usual body issues, it made me happy to be in a place where you didn't even have to size people up because it was all just out there, whether it was cute or not... and who's to tell you you're not cute, anyway? Why wouldn't you be?



At 7:48 PM, Blogger Miss Templeton said...


Your February post on Jean Lafitte brought me here, but -- without seeming too forward -- I do hope that I might staya spell! Only blogging since August myself, but I can see that we might share a good chat or two!

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous mercuryfern said...

I am always pleasantly thrilled when visiting at Michele's brings me to truly sublime writers. I just got back from a week long stay in New York, so your observations on the life there are particularly eye catching to me. Here I thought the Scientology was limited to the subways. Do you thing there’s been a recent a rise in membership, or is this an especially aggressive period of recruitment?

I'll be back, you'd better believe it. Oh, did I mention that Michele sent me?


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