Thursday, September 18, 2003
PASTA DREAMS...Went to the Italian Festival down at Custom House Plaza this past weekend. It's a great gathering of happy-go-lucky goombas having a good time, eating, drinking, listening to music--the way life should be all the time. It was very interesting for me to stroll around the grounds, taking in the various Italian-American flavors.
When I was a boy (no wisecracks), my father was involved with the Italian community in the neighborhood. His parents were from Italy, as were all his aunts and uncles and most of their friends, so he was completely bilingual. To satisfy the hammy side of his split personality (Gemini), he would act and sing in all the Italian performances at Immaculate Conception's school auditorium, which doubled as a gymnasium. My mother, also born in America, tried to distance herself from all that; she wanted to be like Bette Davis.
Often, Dad would get my teenage sister Rita involved in the performances dancing La Tarantella, with the lavish costumes and that familiar music. I, on the other hand, would spend all my time horsing around trying to get into trouble.
So, as I shyly drifted throughout the Custom House version of my childhood Italian-American festival life last weekend, those old familiar songs, sounds and sensations came flooding back through the hard drive. I have to admit, and my mother would understand, I look upon my heritage with a complex set of feelings. By all modern standards, the music and dance and bocce ball and obsession with the red, white and green seem somewhat silly and outdated. Yet something lurks in the memory banks of my own DNA, a fascinating duality toward my ethnic identity--no doubt the same thing felt by all American-born people who have ancestors from another country.
I am grateful to my grandparents, who risked their lives to explore the possibility of better ones in the New World. They worked like horses, lived honorable lives, and handed down better lives to their children. Walking around that Italian Festival was a reminder to me of how much I owe them.
QUICK REMINDER...Centerfor has a great back-to-back set of customer service lectures on the 24th and 25th. Call 645-9570 or center-for.com (don't forget the hyphen)...Paraiso Vineyards is having a great formal benefit to help out the new Valley of the World wing at the Steinbeck Center. It's this Saturday, Sept. 20 so get on it, 678-0300... Clementine's Kitchen just signed on as a sponsor with The Monterey Beer Festival, "Brew With A View," scheduled for Oct. 26. David Babcock, the ebullient, dare I say effervescent, chef/co-owner and partner Drew "I know what to do" Chernoy are going to set up a demonstration kitchen at the festival and have a few chefs in to do "cooking with beer" demos. A cool idea from a couple of very cool dudes.
HUGS PLEASE...If you happen to run into Susan Petersen, Monterey's favorite personal assistant to the high and mighty, who has been the backbone of The Monterey Jet Center for years, wish her well. She recently went through a lengthy struggle helping her father in the last stages of a fatal illness and lost him a few weeks ago. Susan, a loving spirit and a real giving soul who is always quick with a show of affection for her fellow humans, could use a few hugs herself right now.
WAKE UP, SMELL THE COFFEE...Here's an interesting tidbit from Newsday: "The buying power of minorities is growing at a faster rate than that of white Americans, thanks to a surge in population, rising levels of education and heightened entrepreneurial activity, a new study by the University of Georgia found."
The study uncovered some other interesting facts. Hispanics and African Americans have started businesses at a rate four times faster than the overall population, and African Americans in particular have attained higher levels of education. The study predicts that by 2008, the combined buying power of minorities will exceed $1.5 trillion. That's a lot of spending. "Minorities' buying power is gradually reshaping the commercial and retail landscape of America," said Jeffrey Humphreys, who directs the university's Simon S. Selig Center for Economic Growth.
With the current economic slump plaguing local businesses, it might prove fruitful to consider widening one's target clientele. It's all well and good to sit back and light candles for the return of the boom years, when three million tourists came through Monterey County annually, but those days are over. The reality is that customer bases must be broadened to include ever-more affluent and influential minorities--hey, somewhere in my DNA I remember being one myself. Peace and love y'all.