Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Take The E Train


In "Glamourous Glue," his single from the early 'Nineties, Morrissey sang,

Now we look to Los Angeles
For the language we use
London is dead
London is dead
London is dead...

My then Morrissey-lovin' roommate Barry and I, disspirited by the changes we saw going down in our beloved East Village (had we only known what was to come) would sing along while cleaning the kitchen,

Maybe move to Astoria,
Things are great in Jackson Heights, I hear
Manhattan is dead
Manhattan is dead
Manhattan is dead

At that time, the Borough of Queens existed more for us as a concept than a real place that people lived and that you could go to. All I knew about Queens I knew from watching "All In The Family" two decades earlier.

Brooklyn was another story. Brooklyn was already cool. And in a couple of years, I would myself be moving to the People's Republic of Brooklyn, and loving it. When I worked in the South Bronx, I gained an appreciation of the funkiness and grittiness of the borough that gave us the namesake cheer. And Staten Island, of course, was politically and culturally a suburb of Bayonne, New Jersey; a land where a few sad homos lived who would look at their watches at 11:45 on a Friday night and mutter, "Damn. I've gotta go. I'm gonna miss the ferry."

But Queens wasn't even in my consciousness.

When I was dating Special Guy, I managed to find my way out the Van Wyck to visit him where he lived with his parents, Marge and Sergio in a place called White Stone. (Or as I liked to call it, Piedro Blanco.)

When Greater New York City was formed in 1895, there were many Brooklynites who didn't feel the love. Brooklyn was its own sovereign city, there was a there there. If you run into a resident of Boerum Hill on the Champs-Elysées and inquire where they hail from, he won't say, "New York," he'll say, "Brooklyn!" But in 1895, Queens County, the third and westernmost county on Long Island. It was dotted with farms and small towns, such as Woodside, Sunny Side, Jamaica, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Maspeth and such. All those little towns had their own post offices, and as a result, if you today write a letter to your buddy who lives in any of Brooklyn's great neighborhoods, you'll address it to "Brooklyn NY 112__." But if your buddy lives in Queens, it goes to Maspeth NY or White Stone NY or Jamaica NY or wherever.

But of course, I was never writing to anyone in Queens because I didn't know anyone in Queens. (Special Guy's parents lived in Queens.) I didn't know anyone in Queens because nobody lived in Queens.

But I sense that things have changed.

I now know several people in Queens. And they're all about Queens. "Yeah, Queens is Great!"

Just like in Scooby-Doo, the answer to the most perplexing mystery usually has something to do with real estate. And you can still find an affordable apartment in Queens and take the subway into Manhattan rather than the PATH train. Queens is also the most diverse of the five boroughs. There are something like 143 different languages that you can hear on the streets of Queens. And that, of course, means that arguably, the best restaurants in NYC can be found in Queens. Back in the day when I was a devoté of Chowhound, this amazing Korean BBQ place would have a great write up that would have me drooling, followed by the inevitable, "Damn. It's somewhere in Queens."

So could it be that Queens is being colonized? Could Queens be the next Cool Place To Live? Is Queens the next Brooklyn?

It sure would make it easier to get to the airport!

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