15h45 UTC; SUNDAY, 30 MARCH 2014: Your Correspondent was thinking at some length the other night about Brooklyn La Gomma del Ponte, Italy's own brand of chewing gum, a product of the confectionary firm Perfetti Van Melle (as in Mentos) and produced in the Milan suburb of Lainate since its debut in 1954; its name being chosen (as Perfetti Van Melle will tell you) because Brooklyn sounded "typically American" (what with American troops introducing Italians to American chocolates and chewing gum during the Italian campaign of World War II).

And its "typically American" name gave Brooklyn Gustolingo some cachet and attention in Italian youth circles who saw in Brooklyn Gum the American Dream made flesh, thanks for the most part to rather imaginative TV commercials down the years as helped shape the image of Brooklyn Gustolingo being representative of America (an early black-and-white such follows):



And let's not forget where Brooklyn Gustolingo sponsored several bicycle-racing teams on the likes of the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in the 1970's and early 1980's, souvenirs of which are highly prized in certain Italian pop-culture circles. (I'm not sure if they still sponsor cycle racing teams in Europe, but please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Which has Your Correspondent wondering if there have been Italians whose visits to the United States were influenced by Brooklyn Gustolingo, never mind whether it was the very name and stylee or the commercials as influenced the decision ... and consciously included Brooklyn among the destinations worth visiting, never mind Brooklyn technically considered part of New York City (as well as being Kings County of New York state). And in so visiting, uttering under their breath what kind of a dump Brooklyn must be after seeing all those glamourous commercials for Brooklyn Gustolingo all this time (the old Reality vs. Perception game here).



On the other hand, though, you have Brooklyn seeing something of a renaissance in its own right in recent years, manifested in particular with the opening of Barclays Center across from the Long island Rail Road's Atlantic Avenue terminal in Brooklyn (at Flatbush Avenue), home of the NBA's Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets and poised to become a serious rival to Madison Square Garden across the East River in Manhattan when it comes to sporting, concert and trade show events--so long as Brooklyn managed to get some decent hotels for fans and convention delegates (as is likely to be the case).

Too, Coney Island, long seen as the summer resort of the New York masses thanks to the subway and Nathan's Famous hot dogs where the subway ends at Stilwell and Surf, is seeing a comeback in its own right, even if Astroland amusement park closed a few years back (howbeit with the Cyclone rollercoaster and Wonder Wheel protected as Historical Landmarks); in recent years, minor-league baseball's Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Penn League (Class AA), the annual Mermaid Parade on the Coney Island Boardwalk and the return of Luna Park (to see the return of the Thunderbolt rollercoaster, in its day a serious rival to the Cyclone, this summer) have given new life to what had become a somewhat neglected and yet iconic part of Brooklynania.

And speaking of the Mermaid Parade, the following Brooklyn Gustolingo advert pays homage therefor:



As for some recommended reading vis-a-vis Brooklyn, readers, might I be the first to recommend David W. McCullough's coffee-table book Brooklyn ... and How it Got That Way (The Dial Press, 1983), a well-illustrated collation in words and pictures of Brooklyn in her many moods and temperaments. Especially worth reading for the Brooklyhn Gustolingo crowd is Chapter Six, "A City of Neighbourhoods and People," as features a dissection of the ethnic character of Brooklyn's many neighbourhoods as uses Bedford Avenue as its foundation. As Mr. McCullough explains it in closing this little excursion:
In its nine and a half miles Bedford Avenue has gone from Ukrainian Greenpoint to Hasidic Williamsburg, Puerto Rican Williamaburg, black Bedford-Stuyvesant, "mixed" Crown Heights (including a corner of the Haitian neighbourhood some call La Saline after a Port-au-Prince slum), white Flatbush, whiter Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay, with its mixture of Irish and Italians and a few black families, descendants of grooms and stableboys who arrived before the turn of the [20th] century to work at the Jockey Club racetrack.
In any case, when it comes to Brooklyn, identity and neighbourhood seem to come together, especially where ethnicity comes into play. Again, Mr. McCullough:
In Brooklyn, the neighbourhood is everything. Clifton Fadiman, who attended Boys' High in Bed-Stuy at the same time as Irving Thalberg, recalls that Flatbush boys and Williamsburg boys both acted tough, but that Flatbush boys were just acting. Williamsburg boys were the real thing. It was an important difference to understand.

Jewish kids who lived on the Boro Park end of Prospect Park in the 1940's and 1950's were warned by their parents not to wander into Irish Park Slope and to stay clear of the Norwegian "squareheads" in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. The irish kids of the Slope ventured into Italian South Brooklyn only when they were looking for trouble. Time has blurred the neighbourhood lines and who stands on either side, but life goes on pretty much the same. Most summers, usually when August gets hottest, there are newspaper stories about teenage "gang wars" on Fifth Avenue near Union Street, at just about the spot where the Irish used to mix it up with the Italians. Italians are still on their side of the line, but the "enemy" now speaks Sapnish.
Still, Brooklyn manages to be as interesting in its own right as Manhattan, and one may want to consider spending as much quality time in Brooklyn as in the better-known sights of Manhattan; Brooklyn, come to think of it, can get to be pretty interesting if you know where to look--especially beyond Coney Island, about the only part of Brooklyn everybody seems to know about.

You've got the NYC Transit Museum and Shop ...Prospect Park ... Greenwood (or is it Green-Wood?) Cemetery ... the Botanic Garden (itself right by Prospect Park) ... the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights ... the Brooklyn Museum and Library ... BAM (as in the Brooklyn Academy of Music) ... and among the annual events worth visiting, aside from the Mermaid Parade, include the West Indian-American Carnival and Parade along Eastern Parkway on Labour Day weekend, the Giglio Festival at Williamsburg's Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine Church in mid-July and the Atlantic Antic in mid-September along the entire of Atlantic Avenue. (You might want to visit this page to get an idea of upcoming and recurring Brooklyn happenings worth your time and attention when you make the time for Brooklyn.)

In any event, I certainly hope I meant no disrespect for Brooklyn proper, let alone the Italians whose vsiion of Brooklyn were shaped by their own brand of chewing gum thus styled (and thus compelled, in visiting America, to make a detour of Brooklyn as part of the time in New York City before heading to, say, Disney World). Otherwise, leave them in the comments section.

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