Day 537

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

June 19th, 2013

This church (as seen from the Rodale Pleasant Park Community Garden) is one of the last reminders* of the almost vanished community of Italian Harlem. While the number of Italian worshipers at the church has dwindled considerably, and the annual feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is now "dominated by Haitians who chant to the Madonna in French Creole", many of the old-timers do return to the neighborhood once a year for the Dance of the Giglio, in which a massive platform supporting an 82-foot-tall tower and more than a dozen musicians is lifted up by a mob of participants and paraded down the street to the church.

* Another holdover from the Italian days is Claudio the Barber: "You go to him not just for the haircut, but for the world seen through one deeply experienced man's eyes, a man who has you imprisoned in a chair for about 15 minutes and knows there's not much else for you to do but listen." After 60 years of cutting hair in the same location, Claudio was almost put out of business by a rent increase at the end of 2011, but he found a new landlord just down the block willing to offer him a more affordable deal.

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