Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Farewell to Queens

After four years in New York's least-fancied and least fancy borough, I'm about to become a resident of Manhattan again. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this yet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not ambivalent about my new place (very nice and well-located, with a roof made for grilling and late-night hooting and/or hollering). And I'm not at all ambivalent about my new roommate, a good friend with whom I have dwelt before.

What has me conflicted is leaving overlooked, middle-child Queens for the glittering canyons of Manhattan. I feel like a minor turncoat, as if I've spurned the girl next door for the leggy captain of the soccer team. Sure, I'm making a choice I'm happy with, but what I'm giving up is not insubstantial. That said, this isn't really a lament, it's just an update.

My friends and place of business will be closer. I won't be prisoner to subway vagaries that include different lines serving my stop at different times of day, too-frequent weekends without service in one direction and a G train which seems scheduled by the insane. I won't have to explain to people not from here where Astoria is, while they nod and say "Oh, OK" as if I've suddenly started speaking in Finnish.

On the other hand, I'll be paying more in rent. I'll no longer smugly be able to leave my house an hour before my plane is scheduled to leave LaGuardia, or 30 minutes before the first pitch at Shea. The best Thai food in the city (don't just take my word _ Romania can't get enough, either) no longer will be a phone call away. The Greek cafes on Broadway or the Czech beer garden near Astoria Boulevard will require special trips.

I don't look forward to telling the staff at the laundromat in my neighborhood that I'm leaving, and not only because I'm not quite sure how to say it in Spanish. The Columbian bakery, home of the 90-cent cafe con leche, with the milk properly hot and the coffee properly strong? Might as well be in Medellin.

If, when winter comes I want one, I'll be left to shell out four times as much for a crappier drink at Starbucks if I want something remotely similar. And the Columbian hot chocolate, made with cinnamon and spices and poured out of a battered tin pitcher ... well, let's just say I don't think that quite comes with your tabletop s'mores kit at Cosi.

I'll miss my immigrant-run bodegas, all four of them (Korean, middle Eastern, Dominican and south Asian, each with its own subtle variations in its selection of beverages, newspapers and familiar customers). I won't be able to, on a whim, go to the local Irish bar and gamble at the OTB on the second floor. I will no longer walk past the door of the "social club" on the corner, peering in for a look at the crusty, vaguely menacing old men sipping beer and playing cards. There will be no more marveling at the old butcher shops that still cater to sturdy immigrant women with itchy-looking dresses and handcarts they aren't afraid to use as weapons. No more curbside haggling with black-cab drivers in their clattering old Town Cars.

I'm leaving this whole shabbily loveable patchwork behind for the starched shirts and swept streets of Manhattan.

I know it's for a number of good reasons, and I'm definitely looking forward to living with a good friend and former roommate. I'm excited to be moving to a bigger apartment, with a better location and, yes, better roofdeck (though I'll miss the scene from my own _ watching planes lazily spiral to Earth at three airports with the Manhattan skyline and East River bridges as a backdrop). And even though the knowledge that I'll be able to walk to the greenmarket at Union Square is one of those things yuppies spring granite-countertop hard boners when they're discussing their apartments over a round of lychee-tinis at Spice Market, I'm sufficiently eager to get good produce without the intervention of FreshDirect that I'm going to overlook that confluence, and I know you will too. I'm excited to be moving to Manhattan, and it's definitely time for me to move, but at the same time, I feel like a small part of me is being left behind.

I know in my head that this is a good move, a move that is highly likely to make me happier and my life easier and more rewarding. My heart just hasn't caught up yet.

This isn't a lament, just an update.


evil girl said...

if this post had any tactile quality, it would be sticky.

Crunk Raconteur said...

Dunno, it seems more moist than sticky...

brian the pinup said...

I'm not quite as sure I want him anymore...will I have to hear a littany of things that were better in Astoria for a year now? To answer a few of the concerns, though...if you really want there's an OTB on Park South; and nearby Desmonds has the old-man-bar/social-club thing; don't worry, immigrants run the bodega downstairs; sorry I only really drink american coffee but there is a fabulous coffehouse not too far...

...And seriously is there a better place to live near than Molly's? Need I bring up the shake shack on *rainy* days? Affordable cabs home after too-many-beers? Its like shangri-la...albiet with a probably-mafia landlord. But still.

CrimeNotes said...

This post rocks. It makes Queens sound like the earthly paradise.

Notice that Brian's list of local assets omits rooftop hooting opportunities.

brian the pinup said...

CN, I was trying to stick to the non-obvious assets, you see.

CrimeNotes said...

Hey, is this move going to cause attempts to coerce me into leaving my neighborhood? Because that'd suck. Unless rooftop hooting is involved, in which case, I'm there.

Tommy O said...

BTP, the littany(ies) will last, let's see i played "munchkin soccer" with Flop when I was 5 years old and we are now 29... So, we're talking 24 years and counting.

Also, make sure that when the hooting and/or hollering starts that Flop doesn't revert to high school days and pee off the roof.

Dr. Zenith said...

The following is by Dr. Zenith, Flop's roommate and proprietor of Lost Episodes. I asked Flop if I could write a rebuttal to his post and encoruaged me to do so.

It started with the man peering into our bathroom window. Less than a year after I moved in, he was my first real sign that something was seriously wrong with our neighborhood.

The man was part of a work crew hired by our landlord to weatherproof the brickwork around the top of the building. A fine and noble cause, heralded by hydraulic hammers pounding away at 8 a.m. everyday for the weekend.

This was the first salvo in the ongoing war Flop and I waged for a little peace and quiet. Noise was the third roommate we couldn't get rid of because his name was on the lease before we moved in.

The kids next door, who are released from their cages at five every afternoon, enjoy playing basketball despite not having a hoop. They dribble for a few minutes against the side of the building, yell at each other, then dribble some more. Ghost Rider, a man who's face we have never actually seen, tears through the streets every day on his muffler-free hog, creating a noise akin to a World War I biplane starting its engine in your living room. In his wake, Ghost Rider sets off every car alarm on the block, as does thunder, construction, cats meowing and any other seismic anomaly louder than a pin dropping. At least twice a year, the Urban Youth Ministry around the corner hosts a large gathering and parks its charter buses on the street for three days. The bus engines running all day and back up beeps blaring every time they move an inch are only half as annoying as the Mr. Softee who parks in front of our building every night at 7:30 on the dot and plays that fucking song for 15 straight minutes.

Our all time reliable: People honking their car horns two mornings a week at sanitation workers for having the insolence to stop their truck and pick up garbage. Honking at the garbage man!

All of this was just one symptom of a larger disease known as "Whattayagonnado?," an ailment that causes otherwise rational thinking humans to actually pay to live in substandard conditions because the rent is considered "good." Water pressure and temperature are a gamble, as is heat in the winter. The cabinets are made of balsa hobbycraft wood. The landlord, whom we'll call "Shaggy," is the living embodiment of laissez-faire, appearing only sporadically from his Mystery Machine van to walk up and down the block and maybe wave hello. A hands-off landlord beats a nosy one every time. But when two of your three hallway lights have been out for seven months and you know you're only one blown bulb from having to negotiate three flights of stairs in total darkness, you hope for someone a little more proactive.

None of this is indicative of the entire borough of Queens, which has many lovely neighborhoods in which to live. This is all about our street and its mission to destroy our lives.

I can't say I'll miss Queens as much as Flop says he will. What I can say is that the only way I'd come back would be if I either played for the Mets or moved in with Frank and Estelle Costanza.

- Dr. Zenith

P.S.: I have no dirt to dish on living with Flop, although I will say that two people's definitions of what is "clean" can differ greatly. His inspriational and thorough instruction on how to play defense in video game football would make Romeo Crennel proud.

P.P.S.: Shameless Plug

CrimeNotes said...

Wow. Dr. Zenith rocks.

CrimeNotes said...

Also, is this the most pseudonym-heavy blog ever, or what? I think Jeff from Passion of the Weiss is the only person to ever comment here using a real name. I'm surprised we identifed Queens by its name instead of calling it Reginas, and that Manhattan isn't called New Amsterdam.