form or matter
– photo by Mitch Waxman
Gaze in bewilderment upon the under cobbled lanes of fabled Astoria, hoary and venerable, one of the last locations within the megalopolis which actually resembles New York City. The human infestation is dense here, where an effervescent melange of cultures nevertheless vies to ignore each others presence. Many of my neighbors have told tall tales of “back home”, all of which are unsavory to my American ears. The wonder of this place is that the cultural stressors which tear and gnash have more to do with parking spots and loud music than centuries old blood feuds and the inheritances of Eurasian nationalism.
People in Astoria pride themselves on minding their own business, which has become kind of an issue of late.
A blood feud is a feud with a cycle of retaliatory violence, with the relatives of someone who has been killed or otherwise wronged or dishonored seeking vengeance by killing or otherwise physically punishing the culprits or their relatives. Historically, the word vendetta has been used to mean a blood feud. The word is Italian, and originates from the Latin vindicta (vengeance). In modern times, the word is sometimes extended to mean any other long-standing feud, not necessarily involving bloodshed. Sometimes, it is not mutual but a prolonged series of hostile acts waged by one person against another without reciprocation.
– photo by Mitch Waxman
Do not mistake the place for a paradise, nor blankly accept the soporific descriptions of Astoria offered by Real Estate Industrial Complex operatives or the political class. One cannot ignore the omnipresent darkness which emerges in the ancient village. Just down my block, a couple of summers ago, an old man died in his house at the height of summer and his mouldering corpse lay undiscovered for several weeks- the explosive result forced a tear down renovation of his living quarters- an expense which forced his landlord to sell the building. Another neighbor, suffering from severe depression, attempted suicide via hanging several years ago. He was clinically dead when the paramedics arrived, but resuscitated. Unfortunately, other members of his creed, adherents to ancient superstition, believe him to be animated by the devil itself and shun him. “The Man with no Soul”, as he is called, wanders the neighborhood blankly and brain damaged.
Also, there is the odd fat man on 34th avenue and his criminal army of juvenile devotees…
A nachzehrer is created most commonly after suicide, and sometimes from an accidental death. According to German lore, you don’t become one from being bitten, or scratched. It is just something that happens. Nachzehrers are also related to sickness and disease. If a large group of people died of the plague, the first person to have died is believed to be a nachzehrer.
Typically a Nachzehrer devours its family members upon waking. Its also been said that they devour themselves, including their funeral shroud, and the more of themselves they eat, the more of their family they physically drain. It is not unlikely that the idea of the dead eating themselves might have risen from bodies in open graves who had been partly eaten by scavengers like rats.
Some Kashubes believed that the Nachzehrer would leave its grave, shapeshifting into the form of a pig, and pay a visit to their family members to feast on their blood. In addition, the Nachzehrer was able to ascend to a church belfry to ring the bells, bringing death to anyone who hears them. Another lesser known ability of the Nachzehrer is the power it had to bring death by causing its shadow to fall upon someone. Those hunting the Nachzehrer in the graveyard would listen for grunting sounds that it would make while it munched on its grave clothes.
– photo by Mitch Waxman
Brutal homicides and bizarre occurrences permeate the recent past here- on the corner pictured above, there was a gun battle and fatal shooting just last year. An uptick in public drunkenness, petty vandalism, and large groups of carousing youths has been commented on more than once by area wags in recent months. Disturbingly, the social contract seems so tattered that public defecation and urination are now the norm on Broadway, despite the easy availability of lavatories at any number of bars and restaurants. As is the way with Queens, many complain, but few step forward to confront and chase away the chaos.
They shrug, and accept, and forget all about Kitty Genovese.
Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964) was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of the borough of Queens in New York City, on March 13, 1964.
The circumstances of her murder and the lack of reaction of numerous neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later; the common portrayal of neighbors being fully aware but completely nonresponsive has since been criticized as inaccurate. Nonetheless, it prompted investigation into the social psychological phenomenon that has become known as the bystander effect or “Genovese syndrome” and especially diffusion of responsibility.