17 June 2007

North Beach Festival

The "June Gloom" of San Francisco is upon us, which means one thing...festival season. Two weeks ago was the Union Street Fair, last weekend was the Haight Street Fair, and this weekend is my favorite, the North Beach Festival.

For me, any chance to hang out in North Beach is a plus. As an Italian-American, I love seeing all the old Italians hanging out, reminding me of my Papa and his friends. I love the smells, the little bakeries that have been around for years and years, pumping out classic focaccia or pasta. And the Italian language is still alive there, from the corner cafe to the fancy restaurants. (on a side, on the Sopranos they mentioned Little Italy in New York has shrunk to one block. I hope this doesn't happen in San Francisco)

The North Beach Festival, like many of the others here, closes down several streets and boasts a myriad of vendors hocking their wares. I have gone for several years, usually attending a party or two on my way down then parking it in Washington Square with some frosty beverages, talking to people and listening to music. Last year, however, this changed.

My grandfather passed away just a year ago this week, about 4 days before Father's Day. He had been sick, but death always has a shocking element to it. My father decided the way he wanted to spend his Father's Day was in the Italian part of SF. A friend of his had gone on and on about how much fun the NBF was, and Dad wanted to try it out. He loved it, and wanted to do it again this year, on Saturday, though, this time.

I was a little worried! Saturday is the crazy day there. Drunk people all over the place, crowds spilling from every bar...my parents would never go for this! Luckily, I forgot how early they like to get moving. I met them around 10.30am, we walked around, and at about 11am, we headed into my Dad's favorite bar, Gino & Carlos. While it wasn't packed, the bar was already lined with regulars. And they invited us right in. My dad was so funny, telling everyone about his kids who are now "real" Italians, with papers and all. I know he was thinking about my Papa (we went into the church and he started tearing up as he said a little prayer), but I think they were good thoughts. When the bartender passed around focaccia, we all reminisced about the homemade stuff we usually had.

The fact that this festival makes my dad so happy, and thus my mom so happy, makes it that much more special to me. The weather was typical San Francisco...overcast, grey, foggy, but that didn't damper our spirits. I like to think that when the sun did finally come out, it was all the old Italians upstairs, including my Papa, smiling down at us.

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