After six hours walking in the parade with the Blessed Mother, St. Stephens Church looked like a welcome site. I am tired and hot from marching all dressed up in a suit and tie. I can’t wait to go home and get out of these clothes. The Molesi men carried the statue of the Blessed Mother, who is covered with a ton of paper money, back into the Church. I stood on the steps of the Church where I could see the platform they built for the band stand. Once it gets dark the band will climb on the platform and the festivities will begin. The Street is covered with multicolor lights. Many of the venders are putting the finishing touches on the food carts and food trucks that will be serving all kinds of Italian delights to eat. Other venders will be selling gifts and trinkets with the image of the Blessed Mother. Then there are games to play to test your skills or good fortune. If you’re lucky, you will win a stuffed animal or live gold fish to take home.
They even set up a bunch of kiddy rides like a mini Carnival for the little guys and girls. Everything is so colorful and the smell of the different foods cooking is making me hungry. I walked home with my Dad. When we got home we shed our suits to more comfortable summer clothes. We met my Mom and sister and walked back to St. Stephens Church where the street festival was starting up. By the time we got there it was dark. The colorful lights are beaming and you now can appreciate the colors, the music, the food cooking and the festive mood of the crowd. Everyone seems so happy to be there. Even though my Dad, is out of work, he doesn’t have much money but he still managed, to scrape together four dollars to give me to spend at the feast. I felt a little guilty taking the money, but I knew that it made my Mom and Dad happy to have me and my sister enjoy this great celebration. This feast is part of their heritage that they brought with them from the old country. My sister told me that when people moved to America from countries all over the wold they continued to celebrate their customs and traditions. For example, the Irish celebrate Saint Patrick Day, the Chinese celebrate their New Year, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, the Germans celebrate Octoberfest, the Italians celebrate Columbus Day and so on. Just like all the people who immigrated to America before them, my parents, do not want to forget the family traditions that they enjoyed as children in their little home town of Mola De Bari. When we got to the steps of the Church we separated. My Mom and Dad went to meet their cousins and friends to listen to Italian music and eat traditional Italian food.
My sister went with her friends to seek the company of good looking Italian boys to talk to. As for me, I found a bunch of my friends, Pecker, Mikey, Nunzio, Reno and others. We played every game of chance we could find. We stuffed our faces with sausage and pepper sandwiches, funnel cakes, nuts, popcorn, zeppoles and all the pastry delights we could find. I think I’m going to be sick from eating all this crap. I keep telling myself that this festival will go on for three days and I don’t want to waste my energy and money on the first night of the festival. We called it quits around eleven PM, and I walked home with my family. Even blocks away from the feast we could still hear the Italian music playing and the crowd cheering them on.
We all got up late the next morning. Yesterday was too much for me. The Handball games, the parade and the night at the festival, I don’t know how I can do it all over again tonight. I met up with my friends about one PM and we just sat around in front of Chickies grocery store on Hicks Street talking about all the fun we had the night before. None of us had much energy left. Jimmy Pizza thought it would be a good idea to play a game where we don’t have to jump or run like crazy.
Pecker said “My Dad has a deck of cards we can play with. We can play poker for pennies or baseball picture cards or bottle caps. I’ll run home to get them.” Everyone agreed that this was a good idea so we all went home to get whatever we could to put into the pot for the card game. It took us about fifteen minutes to get back to Hicks Street with our booty. We decided that we should play our card game in front of one of the houses that has a high stoop. Most of the time a high stoop has a wide landing at the top and it’s great to sit on for playing a card game. The girls on the block also look for a high stoop when they play Jacks. The best house is the one next to the stable on Luquer Street. We all picked our spots and sat there waiting for Pecker to bring the playing cards. When Pecker got there with the playing cards we all agreed to play, five card “Draw Poker”.
There are five of us sitting on the stoop. Pecker started to shuffle the cards and Jimmy Pizza cut the deck. We all put one penny into the pot. Pecker deals out five cards to each player. Draw Poker is an interesting game, when you get your five cards to check your hand to see if you have a pair of Jacks or better to open. If you don’t know anything about this game you first have to know the basics of the Poker game.
First you have to know that anyone playing in the first hand needs a pair of Jacks or better to continue the game. If you have a pair of Aces, you can open the game by saying “I open”. At that point you have to put an additional penny in the pot. Everyone playing has to follow your lead or drop out of the hand. If everyone does the same then you can hold on to the your pair of Aces and give the other three cards in your hand back to the dealer. Then the dealer will give you three new cards. Everyone playing can decide what they want to keep or which cards they want to give back to the dealer. You’re allowed to give up to four cards to the dealer for replacement cards. Then you check your new cards and decide if your hand is worth gambling for a win. If you got another Ace as a replacement card, you then have three Aces which is a strong possible winning hand. All the other players will do the same. Some players will drop out of the hand because they don’t think they can win the pot. If you think you can win you put more pennies in the pot and say “see you”. Then everyone who is still playing must show their cards to the other players.
If no one has a hand that beats three Aces, You win the pot, but it looks like Jimmy Pizza has four twos and that hand beats three Aces. Jimmy Pizza collects all the pennies in the pot. Even though twos alone have the lowest value in the deck of cards, but since Jimmy has four twos in his hand his cards are of greater value than three Aces. When you play “Draw Poker” it’s important to know the value of the cards in your hand. There are many combinations that can be a possible winner. Such as pairs, two pairs, three of a kind, four of a kind, low straight, high straight, straight flush, royal straight flush, flush, full house, etc. It will take time for you to learn all the combinations of possible winning hands and the best way to learn is to play “Draw Poker”. This day Jimmy Pizza turns out to be the big winner in our card game.