Posts Tagged ‘queens’

The Old Days

November 6, 2017


I love to eavesdrop on conversations in public places. I immediately get out my pen and start scribbling. The quartet of old timers contributing to the conversation I heard below in a coffee shop was composed of three guys and a woman. Lifers in the neighborhood.

“…and this is the killer. On each table they have a container of chocolate syrup and a bottle of seltzer!”

“And then you get the chopped liver and the schmaltz.”

“Ya know, I went to the doctor today. I picked up two containers of coffee. One was for the receptionist…”

“Did you use your coupon?”

“Yeah. I had to wait two hours. The doctor overbooked the appointments.”

“I remember this doctor down on Mulberry St. He weighed about 270. At the end of each day, he would go into those restaurants like he was going to the electric chair. And he smoked Camels! He lived to be 90 years old.”

“He was a two dollar-three dollar doctor. If you didn’t have money, he wouldn’t ask for any. But his wife was the receptionist! She wouldn’t let you out of the office unless you paid.”

“I remember this doctor who used rusty needles. He dipped them in alcohol. If the Health Department ever walked in, fuggettaboutit!”

“I remember when ice cream sundaes was 15 cents. With real strawberries in there.”

“In the theater, nickel candy was a dime, so you brought your own.”

“I remember when I saw that movie Avatar.”

“You gotta be sick to see that. Space ships flying all over the place. 3-D glasses!”

” If you take them off, you can’t see the movie. It’s blurry.”

“What a racket!”

“I hear a lot of people are running away from Scientology.”

“John Travolta…I seen that place they have in L.A. Tom Cruise…”

“Did you see a rabbi molested that kid yesterday? He got pinched.”

“Did you hear a rabbi said that lox is not kosher? That was in the Second Avenue Deli. They were slicing it. I was getting hungry just watching it.”

“On Tirdy-Tird Street?”

“I said to him, ‘See that good looking guy walk in? Sheyna boychik.’ ” And he said to me, “Shyena maidela.”

“My blood pressure is 103 over 70.”

“That’s too low.”

“When I exercise, it goes down to 98.”

“Whoa. That’s too low!”

“You seen Gladys lately?”

“She’s a pretty bright woman. You can’t screw around with her. She knows where it’s at.”

“She had her little dog in a carriage with a Santa suit on.”

“What about that guy whose car crashed into a crowd of people at 90 miles an hour? He’s been in jail for two years.”

“Remember in the old days? The handbrake? Now, I wouldn’t be able to find it.”

“Mine’s on the left on the floor.”

“Mine’s in the middle. It’s a foreign car.”



Feelin’ Groovy

October 27, 2009


Tramway cables on the left, the 59th St. Bridge on the right.

I’d always wanted to ride the tram to Roosevelt Island — the narrow strip of land situated in the East River between Manhattan and Queens — mostly, for the view it offers of the city.

So, the other day, we took a breather from the job hunt and DMV hell and the social security card nightmare (it appears you need an actual “card” in N.Y., in order to apply for a job), took the R train to 59th and Lex, walked to Second Ave., and climbed the concrete steps leading to the platform where the tram was docked.

Whew. What an opportunity to rise above it all.

Since a Metro card will take you just about everywhere here in N.Y., two swipes got us each a four-minute ride on the tram.

There’s something magical about watching the ground and the people on it shrink incrementally before your eyes. It feels so peaceful.


tram3A little bit higher now…

tram5Hey, a techno dog park right next to the East River — lucky K9s.

tram6I wished I could’ve kept rising higher and higher…

tram7A spidery shadow was cast over the river on the approach to the rocky shore of Roosevelt Is.

Once our feet touched ground, a stupendous view was there to greet us. Don’t you love it when you stand beneath a monumental structure, like a bridge, and feel so small? I do.


Since we’d done a little googling before our visit, we knew what we wanted to see. We strolled south down the lovely Riverwalk toward the remains of an old small pox hospital.

Gothic and spooky, the structure instantly brought to mind Mandalay and Dragonwyck and Thornfield Manor…


Notice the funny Casper-like graffito on the left. It really did feel haunted.

In fact, the entire Island felt out-of-time and seemed to harbor an undertone of ghostliness.

Scarier to imagine than the small pox hospital is the New York City Municipal Lunatic Asylum, a mental institution that once resided on the Island. All that remains of it is an octagonal building called — what else? — The Octagon. It’s now an apartment building.

Can you imagine living in an apartment that once housed what the tourist pamphlet calls “woe-be-gotten inmates”? It like the stuff of horror movies.

Anyway, you can read more about the asylum in the February 1866 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine by clicking on this link. It’s a fascinating, first-person account that’s definitely worth a visit.

The most interesting section of the Island turned out to be the middle coast, from the westside down to the southern tip. Still, before departing for good, we shelled out the 25 cents apiece for tickets so we could ride the red commuter bus to check out the Island’s northern tip and visit the lighthouse.


As lighthouses go — and I’ve seen lots of them — it was a pretty good specimen, but didn’t compare to the dramatically romantic lighthouses that inhabit the Oregon coast. I know, apples and oranges. But this lighthouse actually looks better in J.C.’s flattering shot than it does in person.

On the north end of the Island, the view underwhelms — off to the Island’s east side, you have Costco glaring back from the Astoria shore. From the west, the tableau is the upper east side of Manhattan — patently boring.

Still, I’m glad I made the trip and satisfied my curiosity.

To make a fun day even more fun, we headed for Greenpoint to meet our good friend, B., for dinner. Descending the steps down to Roosevelt Island’s only subway stop (the most deeply dug tunnel in the city), we waited on the platform for the F train to arrive.

A bit creepy waiting and knowing you’re standing so far under the East River.

We arrived in Manhattan, boarded the #7 train and took it to Vernon/Jackson Ave’s. Then, we walked over the Pulaski Bridge toward B’s painting and sculpture studio.

pulaskiwalkwayBefore going out for Mexican food and a few beers, I gazed through the studio’s window as the sun set  over Newtown Creek, fantasizing about having a studio of my own, once again — now that I’m back in my very favorite city. Sigh.



October 19, 2009


I apologize for taking so long to resume my blog posts. We’ve been unpacking boxes, moving stuff around, handling all the paperwork that a move entails — so much to do. You know how it is.

To friends who have been keeping up with the blog and emailing me asking: Where are you? — please forgive the following, rather abridged, version of events that transpired after we left New Jersey:

We arrived in New York on 10/8, called a couple of real estate agencies and set up an appointment for 10/9 with a broker and found an apartment the very same day! The first good omen.

At first, he tried talking us into renting in Astoria, but we didn’t want to live in a three-family house. We preferred to be in a building.

Sunnyside Gardens had lots of appeal — leafy streets, peace and quiet, and with its very own “mews” — but, in comparison, we both fell hard for the vibrancy and animated street life of Jackson Heights.

It just so happened that our arrival date had coincided with Jackson Heights’ celebration of Diwali — an Indian holiday known as the “Festival of Light” — which takes place every year to honor the victory of good over the evil that occurs within each person.

Auspicious beginnings — and, another good omen.

diwali-lo resThat’s me, soaking up some sunshine right before we boarded the subway into Manhattan and spent the afternoon with good friends in Central Park. It felt great to be back.

CentralPark1-lo res

The very next day, on Monday — one day before the big move — we rented a cargo van and made a preliminary run out to Long Island to see where the POD had been dropped off.

There it sat, in a large parking lot, with many other POD replicas (just like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). We loaded the van with furniture odds and ends, such as my desk and our dining room chairs. What had seemed, at first, a simple endeavor had turned into an exhausting day.

VanShot-loresA view of our street from inside the van….

On Tuesday, we returned to PODS Central with a truck and three able-bodied friends to whom we’ll be eternally grateful for the help and laughs they provided all day long.The truck was loaded within an inch of its capacity.

Later that night, we celebrated with drinks and a meal at our new favorite neighborhood restaurant: Mehjil (which, appropriately, means “gathering” in either Hindi or Urdu — not sure which).

Since we’d sold mostly all of our furniture, book and cd cases, we’ve been fantasizing about buying some comfortable chairs, maybe a sofa, and shelving that doesn’t come from Ikea…

…that is, W.W.G.J. (When We Get Jobs).

In the meantime, here’s a mini tour of the neighborhood:

Primos-loresOur go-to place for curtain rods, kitchen and hardware odds-and-ends. The secret to staying in business in Jackson Heights?

Sell everything!

Buster-loresIn keeping with that philosophy, at Casa de Buster Brown Shoes, you can buy big butt jeans direct from Colombia (a hot item here in the Heights), put in a call the Motherland, pick up a few t-shirts — and, by the way, they also sell shoes.

BabyPizza-loresSo much tastier than Gerbers…and the perfect companion to your lottery ticket purchase…

HoFlorist-loresLike I said, these stores sell everything.

The Countdown Begins

September 22, 2009

The POD is coming to our driveway this Saturday, 9/26!

After we’ve loaded it with our stuff, the Podzilla will return the following Monday and haul it away. That’s when we’ll embark, unencumbered, on our cross-country drive to N.Y.

The waiting is finally coming to an end.

Time dragged for all of July, August and  into September, even more than it usually does in summertime’s hazy malaise. Back in July, when we’d committed ourselves (mentally, at least) to making the BIG CHANGE — the move to New York — we thought it best to defer that change to the fall — another sixty to seventy days.

Maybe that’s not exactly correct. I have been using the pronoun “we.” Actually, it was mostly “me.”

I thought that pushing back the date would give us more than ample time to stage a yard sale, pore through our stuff, sell some of it on Craig’s List and then pack in an unhurried, stress-free manner.

Also, I believed that pacing ourselves in tandem with the slowly recovering economy seemed wise. And, it was, as it turns out. But, what I hadn’t anticipated was being seized by the grip of stop-time.

That is, time that goes forward, and, yet, doesn’t go forward — for two and a half months.

Eventually, September rolled around, and with nothing but the computers wiring us to the outside world (T.V. disconnected), I’d taken to watching B/W episodes of The Twilight Zone on my iMac — which I’d found for free on the CBS-TV website.

The shows were just the right length (twenty-five minutes, apiece) and provided a welcome diversion at the end of an exhausting day of packing and sweating and packing and sweating in the L.A. heat.

What has happened now, though, with only one week left until until our departure, is that time has sped up. There are just not enough hours in the day and not enough sleep to be had at night.

But Rod Serling already knew that, didn’t he, with all his talk about time and dimensions — which is rather interesting, given that he’s become, of late, a significant presence in my home, after hours.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all of this? Yes, I think so.

It’s far better to fret, pack and perspire under the pressure of a time constraint than it is to extend the deadline too far ahead. The latter provides too much opportunity for losing sleep as you toss and turn and mull over all the what-ifs.

On the other hand, when it came to deciding on the place we wanted to settle into, we did that in a single day. It was a snap.

We chose Sunnyside, in Queens. We picked it because JC liked the name. It was that simple.

Before moving to L.A., it had always been just plain, ole Sunnyside to me — I’d never once stopped to consider the inherent optimism in its name. Until now.

L.A. encourages you to look on the bright side of life. Maybe because L.A. is so — bright.

Still, I must have mended some of my ways while living here, because I haven’t jaywalked since 1996 — the year I left N.Y. (Of course, the fine for jaywalking is more than $250, so that might have something to do with it).

Anyway, Sunnyside appealed to me because it’s a melting pot and leafy and a mere 15-minute subway ride to midtown Manhattan.

The relatively short commute does have its good and bad points, though. The subway had always been a favorite place for me to get some reading done. In anticipation of my new commute, I’ve gone so far as to plan the first novel I’d like to read: Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin.

But I wonder, how many pages could I possibly cover in fifteen minutes? Not that many. Unless, of course, I just happened to become so engrossed in the book that I miss my stop…