Are you ready to get down and dirty? How about sweaty and disappointed? That’s about the truthful highlights behind this year’s Hoboken Italian Festival 2007 in honor of Madonna Dei Martiri (Virgin of the Sea). No, Jessica Simpson, NOT “Chicken of the Sea”…
In the hopes of extending the last remnants of the summer, I felt an overwhelming need to go. Last ditch efforts to enjoy the sun were indeed rewarded with just that: sweltering heat. The only respite were some shady areas thanks to Frank Sinatra Park’s tree-lined streets and vendor tents. Gotta say that the food was still great. The food every year is great. That’s about it. Here’s a list of the things that are just so over-done in festivals that it’s a bit like beating a horse long after its died:
- Jewelry Vendors – It’s not the jewelry vending that’s been done. It’s the lack of novelty. In other words, if you’re selling say, silver jewelry at an African festival, it should be different than the jewelry being sold at an Italian Festival. Out of all the vendors, I could only tell one that was selling religious jewelry in keeping with the Madonna of the Sea celebration. Everything else was just crap you could get at any other vendor festival.
- Disappointing Musical Acts – Local bands are not supposed to be professional, but dagnabbit! they should be entertaining. The one act I saw (and recorded for posterity in photos above) was so dry that it was painful to watch. *More on this subject further down.
- Where Are The Freebies? – Let’s face it, we go to these lame-o street festivals for some shopping, but those in attendance also want the feeling that they’re being rewarded for their time. I hate tables set up to appear as though freebies are being offered and it’s all just a ploy to get you to sign up for something you don’t want or to guilt trip you into support for something you don’t care about or need. Just give me a crappy pen or a stupid dollar-store item for nothing. That would at least make me feel like a suffered for a reason. **More on this under SPAM & balloons below.
- I’m Sorry, What Is This For? – The central meaning behind the event appeared to be lost among the most expensive, heavily inflated prices the vendors were selling their wares for. I remember when every parent could buy $1 items to shut their bratty kid up but yesterday, the only thing that was under a buck were the miniscule freebies they were giving out. Somehow, the Madonna didn’t receive the accolades that she should have. The people in attendance didn’t really go there to connect or to pray, half of them didn’t even know where the church who runs the event was even located! The spectacle of firework bombs blaring took precedent over the rented boat travelling the Hudson to pray for 9-11’s Ground Zero. It was all very showy, but disjointed.
- Omit the Bag – I understand that the real world is what it is. I recognize the significance of wanting to be safe and all, but I really hate the idea of “the bag” as opposed to the symbolism of actually attaching your $1 bills on the Madonna’s robe. I’m aware that the modern days are more dangerous, but there was significant police presence to warrant enough protection for the Madonna. I just kind of like that tradition and felt that the $1 bill-bag hanging underneath the Madonna kind of ruins that.
- Talker Singers – Usually found playing lounges around the country, the talk/singers are a real yawn. No one cares who you met or what you did last year unless it was really, really interesting. No one wants you to interrupt their favorite ditties with add-ons to the lyrics. And, no one but NO ONE wants you to forget the words. EVER. So the wonderful performer (Seen Above) worked the crowd by hugging grandmothers and blowing kisses (which was cheesy, but acceptable). What wasn’t? Well, his inserts on very famous tunes. Then there were gems like this:
I met Tony Bennett many, many times. One time, I met his daughter…took her out to dinner. And unfortunately, she seemed more interested in her meal than in me.
Dude, how much more can you suck than this? He did manage to follow this up with his rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”, but substituted some key words in the lyrics akin to: “I left my heart in Fran Sancisco.” Yeah. I was annoyed too. He also kept reminding the audience that he had been singing sets for a full four days almost as if he regretted having a solid gig. Not even the Chairman of the function could stand it: he cut the singer mid-song to announce the boat (in the distance, off-shore) as it passed for some do-gooding. I suppose the singer was happy to have a break it was so hot. I know that we were happy to have a break from him.
Everyone knows essentially that the whole event is a fundraiser to support the church. Somehow in the past though, the cohesiveness behind the function and the meaning seemed more unified as though the event were the means to the ultimate end; to ask the Goddess figure (Madonna) to bring good tidings to your church and to continue the prosperity for all of the parishioners and supporters for the following year. This true challenge has been overthrown by greed and high-bid campaigning on the church’s behalf, not so much for the poor souls who faithfully support the cause, but for the organizers, the religious figureheads, and church projects (renovations, up-keep). That is sad. Watch the Godfather movie and I think you can understand that beyond the horror of mafia crime there is a deeper meaning about tradition, loyalty, history. How sad to see that just about everything that made the struggle that was so prevalent in this community as well as in others fall so surely to the wayside with modernized New World Order concepts. One Love is ruining the ethnicity and culture that makes America so damn great. But enough about that. I can stand on this soap-box all post-long. But I digress…
Despite making the whole event sound like a total bust, I did want to give credit where credit was due. Here are a few of the real winners of yesterday’s Italian Festival:
- The food – Even though I totally forgot to buy my zeppolis this year (Ugh!), I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of classic Italian foods offered at these events. There was pizza, paninis, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, cannolis, sausages and peppers and Italian ices that were delish. Italians can really throw down some eats.
- SPAM Mobile – This was one of the best features because it was for FREE. You heard it here folks. SPAM. If it’s for free, you know it’s for me. Look, I think SPAM’s got a bad rap for being a hodge-podge of meat products squished into a flat blob which appears to be not so enticing. But in SPAM’s defense, it did help to get a lot of our troops and American families fed for years. It also is quick to prepare (hello, sandwiches!) and is a great alternative to that other minced-meat product: the hot dog. It even stood up to some hecklers who insisted on going to the SPAM truck, snatching some samples “for their parents” (yeah right), only to complain that they would never eat the product unless it came vegetarian-style. Uh, hello…SPAM Lite…LOL! With a wink and smile, the staff still handed out as many samples as you could carry and for some, it was a lot. I guess they like to SPAM-a-lot! (I know, I know I couldn’t resist.)
- The Procession – It’s still interesting to watch this even though it was close to 90-odd degrees and the poor ushers were having a dilly of a time trying to sway in time to avoid dropping that heavy-ass statue. I’m just glad I didn’t have to carry that heavy thing. I’m not sure why it was necessary to parade through the tons of shoppers and random people with that dazed and confused look they get at the mall, but it was worth seeing anyway.
As a little aside, let me also say that nothing is an accident. At least, I don’t believe so. On this particular occasion, I made a very conscious decision to go before I knew which Madonna we were celebrating this year and being a resident of a former port-town I’ve always felt a strong connection to water. I may not have had the best experience, but I still feel that at that particular moment I needed to be in attendance at that particular event. I’m sensitive to these things and so perhaps you must forgive me for that. Soon, expect to see more of this Madonna connection come through in some of my works here. It’s just my way of saying that everything in life is connected. So…maybe One Love, after all? Then, let’s get together and feel alright.