The International Writers
This year I planned
to attend. Anticipation is high as I follow music toward Ferry Street
onto which I make a left and am immediately blasted by deafening sound.
The noise is palpable, giving rhythm to the crowds forward movement;
my feet begin an involuntary merengue shuffle. Garlands and banners decorate
the street which is packed along its 1Ž2 mile length with people strolling
past food vendors whose signs advertise Comidas Típicas Ecuadorianas,
food from Brasil, Mexico, Colombia and, of course, Portugal. $1
will buy you roasted corn, large-kernel corn or arepas. Roast suckling
pig is a great favorite as rows of glistening brown porkers lie on bellies
with legs splayed. It is 5 pm and I appreciate the large quantities of
pig since last year they ran out and I was greatly disappointed. They
are on my must try list today.
Day- Ironbound District
Ulle Trautvag |
A $1.50 fare
brings me from the PATH station at Manhattans 6th Avenue and
33rd Street to Penn Station in Newark, NJ. Im looking
forward to this day because last year I happened on this fest and
wound up having a great time dancing in the streets and feasting
on all types of seafood.
It seems that every corner has a band, tape player or boom box that blares
all types of music rooted in Iberian, Central and South American cultures.
I hear samba, merengue, bachata, cumbia. Exuberance is fueled by
stands selling large sangria for $8, pina colada, capirinha, margarita,
beer and yes jello shots. The crowd in front of Adega
is especially lively where several scantily dressed young women are dancing
on top of the outside bar, which is surrounded by men downing shots.
Two young men have drawn an audience as they perform the capoeira. Vigilant
policemen stand nearby.
I cant believe it is possible for sound to increase but it does
as Forklift and I approach Jefferson Street. A large band on stage
is playing Brazilian rock to a jumping audience, arms waving, that is
screaming the lyrics. The sound is unbelievable! Percussion attacks
me and invades my body. I feel the reverberations and must clap hands
over hurting ears. Now I understand how the Seabourn Spirit repelled
Somali pirates by directing its secret weapon, a blast of sound, at them.
It works! Cant dance; must leave.
And its relatively
quiet. Groups of people share huge portions of marinated octopus,
shrimp, squid, clams, oysters, cockles and all manner of lobster.
They accompany these with red wine. I walk through the back room
which has several family-sized tables crowded with diners who all seem
to be enjoying lobster. The abundance of this crustacean makes the $100
a pound lobster salad that is being offered in The Hamptons even more
obscene. Here it is $12. A man approaches Forklifts side of
the counter, orders a plate of shrimp, leaves it on the counter and departs.
He returns about 20 minutes later and asks: Did you eat this?
Puzzled, Forklift shakes his head, Well says the man,
it is yours.
need for some quiet draws us to Lafayette Street where we enter
Seabras Marisqueira, famous for its seafood. The room is tiled
in Portuguese blue and is occupied by a large horseshoe-shaped counter
anchored in the center by glass cases piled high with cold cooked
lobster, Dungeness crab, clams and head-on shrimp. Seafood
Forklifts large paella and my mariscada have sated us; we pack the
rest and venture out the door. More people, more noise, more music.
We pass Iberia Peninsula restaurant which has several gigantic outdoor
grills that roast an array of chicken, slabs of beef, racks of sardines.
A long counter is erected where one can buy oysters, clams, cold lobster,
the beef, chicken and sardines and enjoy them at family-style tables.
Iberia shares the street with Sagres which is offering similar food.
Everyone is eating. $2 will get you half a chicken or four sardines;
$12 a whole lobster. Wash it down with beer or sangria.
Across Ferry Street is Iberia Square, the heart of this fest. The
square is packed with people either dancing to the large band, eating
at tables or just people watching, roaming from counter to counter, bar
to bar. I cant resist the samba that is starting up and join
the crowd which is clearly enjoying itself. A merengue follows and
then more and more. I dance alone and with Forklift and we cannot
stop. Finally, time constraints urge us to take our leave and we
reluctantly do some dance steps out of the gate of the square as notes
of samba follow us. Dont start dancing again.
Once more we pass stalls selling roast suckling pig and, although Im
stuffed, I must buy a plate. The $2 sample is delicious, with crisp,
crackling skin and tender, juicy meat. We arrive at the end of Ferry
Street where we are confronted by a phalanx of all types of police vehicles,
including some that look like SWAT trucks. They are backed up by at least
three towering garbage trucks. Message received. My upbeat
mood inspires me to smile at the policemen; they dont smile back
. My hips are starting to ache...
September brings Brazil Day. Oh, boy!
© Ulle Trautvag July 2007
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