Wednesday, September 30, 2009

East Side Story

Near the end of the last century it was common for formerly isolated ethnic groups to come into contact with each other. Usually, they realized that they were all recent immigrants and shed their Old World prejudices, but there were two neighboring ethnic groups which for some reason just couldn't stop fighting each other. The Belgians, brought over to lay the Belgian blocks and to tend the Brussels Sprouts farms - in what is now East Harlem - were the bitter rivals of the Welsh, who were imported to cook their fabled rarebits and to dig the still unfinished East Side subway lines.

The Welsh formed gangs which could be seen marching in the streets with leeks on pikes, singing songs of solidarity in their consonant filled native tongue, while the Belgians strutted around with ferocious white Scotty dogs at their sides, puffing themselves up with quilted jackets, which gave rise to their nickname: the hot-air Walloons. The spirited turf wars between these two ethnic groups, which left the streets filled with shredded vegetables, were looked on with exasperated puzzlement by their more accommodating neighbors, the Bavarians, the Tuscans and the Icelanders.

Ah! But love will find a way: a young Welsh miss, Gwynyth Pother and a Belgian lad, Andrian Mecke found each other over a bowl of cock-a-leekie and woke the next morning to a breakfast of Belgian Waffles. The rival families were furious. The Belgians built a roadblock in the middle of 101st street with their Belgian blocks, while the Welsh marched around playing their bagpipes and crwths hoping to break down the walls Jericho-style. Gwynyth and Andrian simply ran off to the Village, where their somewhat dim-witted kinsmen never thought to look for them.

Hostilities continued for several more weeks until the two rivals buried the hatchet and concentrated on ousting a new immigrant group: the Maltese, who came over with their recipes for Malted Milk.

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