The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Ain't life Gran Bwa?
The shops around the Q at Parkside tend to disorient the newcomer. The Duane Reade at Flatbush and Parkside beckons the recent transplant with its promise of familiar consumer goods and suburban customs - clean, bright lighting; middle-class products; and of course, the delightful new in-house DELISH brand products.
Next door, things become a bit odd, but don't EVER mistake the GEM for just another run-of-the-mill 99-cent store. The Gem, much like the character Jem from Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," is energetic, curious and sweet. The similarities are so striking that I wouldn't be surprised if the Gem didn't win a Pulitzer too.
Keep walking and...and...it hits you. You've got to be blind to miss it. Or rather nose-less. The incense burning in the phone booth ('member them?) is strong enough to make your knuckles twitch. You've entered the tractor beam of Gran Bwa, the Haitian Vodou shop that makes this Iowa transplant wonder how he ever ended up in such a wild and wonderful place as Caledonia. I've only ever bought sunglasses there, but I always love the music, and I can't help but wonder about the religious trinkets and statues.
Gran Bwa, as it turns out, is a Vodou Loa - a spirit that frequently has a counterpart with a Catholic Saint, since the French slavers tried in vain to hammer the African out of their "property." Gran Bwa (above) corresponds to St. Sebastian, who i guess got shot while tied to a tree (not a fair fight guys!) Here's his deal, from some website so well designed it must be nothin' but the truth:
"Gran Bois (Bwa) is a very loving loa with a great sense of humor and full of advice. He is apparently proud of the fact that he has a big, stiff p*n*s. Gran Bois can be petitioned for healing and prosperity and general advice." (I did not make that up. Bing it yourself!)
I'm no expert on syncretic religions (actually I think all religions are syncretic, but that's a different post for a different blog on a different internet). But one cool thing I learned today was that Vodou acknowledges the existence of the Creator, but that entity made all the universe and basically split, or BECAME all of this, or IS all of this. Meaning that this historical creature/essence/force known as Bondye doesn't factor into our lives at all. So if you need help, you gotta call on the Loa.
Pantheism meet Pandeism. It's all gonna be alright, isn't it?