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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ask anyone who lives here and they’ll tell you- Astoria Queens rules.

It’s one of the last places in New York City that actually still looks like New York City, and people who live here are generally idiosyncratic and gregarious types who enjoy life’s simpler pleasures wholeheartedly. The ancient village has its problems- of course, too much traffic, a disturbing amount of public inebriation, and when “it hits the fan” around here- things quickly tend to get messy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our streets seem to be collapsing, our sewers back up routinely, everything costs too much, and the new neighbors are noisy. The kids have no respect for the older folks, and litter in a casual manner. The deli guys let bums drink in the back yards of their storefronts, and the social contract which dictates that one should find an appropriate commode for the elimination of bodily wastes seems to have been forgotten. We still haven’t forgotten about the “Great Astoria Blackout of 2006” or the week we spent in the dark while a proverbial “Emperor Nero” fiddled away in City Hall and claimed nothing was wrong.

City services are applied haphazardly (at best) here, except in the case of handing out fines to homeowners and businesses- something handled by the authorities in a fashion best described by the aphorism of “Russian Efficiency”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A background hum- caused by highways and rail yards and millions of air conditioners, automobile engines, and oscillating fan blades- colors the air. There is always some sort of yelling, invariably in some foreign tongue, within earshot. Alternatively- kids are playing and squealing with delight, old ladies shuck beans on their stoops, and old men gather in loose groups to complain about the Mets and Rangers or brag about their grandkids.

Everywhere, one might find sidewalk cafes and tavernas glistening with vibrant crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Indecent development by the real estate industrial complex crowds in on the older building stock, disillusioning long time residents and inflaming the passions of preservationists, but what are you going to do about it? People have a right to do what they want with their own property, and the Astoria way is to mind your own business, unless something directly affects you. The interesting thing about Astoria, as well, is that the whole “race thing” isn’t so much of an issue here. The kids in the neighborhood don’t run in ethnic packs like they do in other parts of the city, it’s more a block by block sort of thing. Brazilian, Irish, Italian, Greek, Korean, Egyptian, whatever- they’re all just “one of the boys” from this avenue or that block or those buildings. Doesn’t matter- as they’re all spoiled rotten, don’t know how good they’ve got it, won’t amount to anything, had it too easy, and all the other things that the old ladies say while making a “tsk tsk” sound.

This is what one might see on the streets, what it’s like to actually live here, and this posting is a response to something someone said to me a couple of weeks ago while I was over in the city- the actual quotation was: “Astoria, I love it there, it’s so diverse”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

What does that mean? Every description I’ve ever heard of Astoria starts with the “diverse” thing, which connotes that the standard for the rest of the world is rigid social segregation along racial and ethnic lines, and that Astoria is some sort of gulag for foreigners who haven’t figured out that they should shop for clothes at JC Penny at the mall on Queens Blvd. and learn to lose the accent. Additionally, on the “diversometer”, do we score higher than Flushing or Ridgewood or Greenpoint?

If one more Manhattanite asks me if I’ve ever been to a) Elias’s Corner, b) the Bohemian Hall, or c) the Museum of the Moving Image- a humble narrator might just go screaming off into the night.

Anyway, Astoria Queens rules.

You got a problem with that?

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2012 at 12:15 am

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