Monday, August 18, 2008

Flying Men in Brooklyn

To abuse Emerson, it occurs to me to bastardize his line to reflect our polyglot borough, and write "The world globes itself in a drop of Brooklyn." My walks down Prospect Park West have revealed that to me, since the least conversation held with any shopkeeper on that strip brings me to a far away land.

This is especially true in the case of the Krupa grocery, generous merchants who did finally give me a small bag of sacred basil seeds from India, refusing any payment. And at the P&E grocery where the woman at the register passionately described the process of making steamed black bean buns on the S. Korean farm where she grew up. Also at Clemens, the Mexican place across from Holy Name, which I have come to think of as a museum of Mexican culture, whose richness and poetry I'm so glad to be able to rub shoulders with.

One of their newest acquisitions is this representation of Los Voladores de Cuetzalan, a man for each of the 5 elements, 1 dancing and playing the flute on top while 4 swirl around from a rope attached to one foot.

The base bears this typed label. I love the uneven typewriter type, and I love the words printed. I don't know much about this Mexican ritual, or should I write richual, because I think it goes deep. In certain ways it resembles the Sun Dance practiced by various Native American tribes, as in both men are tethered to a central pole representing the tree of life. I believe the federal ban on the Sun Dance, which was largely the tribes' apology and lamentation for the suffering their hunting caused the buffalo, was lifted in recent years.

The lucha libre masks that gaze down from the shelf seem ready to test my mettle.

The firm butt-cheek bedecked mural juxtaposes the mythic and sacred origin of Mexico City (once a network of canals splicing a man-made island in the center of salty Lake Texcoco!) with the rise of Manhattan.

Encased in glass a number of indigenous clay figurines flanked by a turkey feather headress scrutizine burrito and fajita eaters, or those who've ordered a salad called the prospect park west. To their right the begrieved Popoca holds his beloved dead Itza in his arms. A friend of mine told me they are the Mexican Romeo and Juliet, transposed to 2 volcanoes near Mexico city. Wikipedia supplies a lovely description of the metamorphosis of the dead lovers lying on their altar tables: "The Gods were touched by Popoca's sacrifice and turned the tables and the bodies into great volcanoes. The biggest volcano is Popocatépetl, which in Náhuatl means "smoking mountain". He sometimes throws out smoke, showing that he is still watching over Iztaccíhuatl, who sleeps by his side."

My docent for this tour of Mexican culture via the Clemen's collection was a man working the counter named Blas, his name one letter short of an explosion or a really good time.


City Mouse said...

Beautiful descriptions of the sweet shop keepers in this super neighborhood. Perfectly described! I always think of the Hallmark Store as an exotic place too ... real dyed in the wool old-school Brooklyn! =)

amarilla said...

Thanks! The hallmark family lives across the street from me, but I only see that friendly woman with the short brown hair in the store. I'm very fond of the bizarre mulberry trees that grow in their yard.

Old First said...

Your blog is the best.