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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Queens Adventure

I went to Sunnyside, Queens, yesterday, April 3, to try a Columbian restaurant reviewed by Peter Meehan in the Times' last week. After eating I decided to walk from Sunnyside to the western edge of Queens, where I would be treated to a spectacular view of Manhattan. My trajectory went something like this...

The red box is Sunnyside, and the line represents the path I took to Western Queens.

So, anyway, Las Americas. It was quite good. A friendly neighborhood spot. In the front is a butcher and small grocery store, and in the back is a counter and a few tables where they serve food. I had a beef empanada as an appetizer, and then chuletas (a fried pork chop), which was served with tostones (green plantains), rice and beans, and a small salad. To drink I had aguapanela, which was referred to in the menu as Columbian lemonade. It certainly had lemon in it, but perhaps some other fruit as well. Regardless of what was in it, it was delicious.

My beef empanada, doused in a delicious green sauce.

The chuletas and tostones and rice and beans. You can also see the aguapanela.

The green sauce you see on my food was called "hot sauce" by the nice fellow at the counter. It was similar to a chimichurri. Certainly it had olive oil, garlic, lime or lemon, chile pepper flakes, cilantro, parsley. Other things, too, though, perhaps. I don't know, man, whatever it had in it, it was good.

So after my meal I decided to take a walk. It was really nice, not too sunny, mild temperatures. Perfect for walking. I started heading west and soon came to the conclusion that I should walk clear to the East River. And so I did.

Walking west. In the distance you can see the Empire State Building.

It was really a wonderful walk. It felt so neat to be walking in Queens, the Manhattan skyline in view. I felt connected to New York, to history. There I was, walking on the street, like someone many years ago, and like someone many years from now. Yes, I felt like a part of civilization, which, sadly, I never felt while taking walks in Pittsburgh.

Getting closer to the East River.

Now, a thought. New York. What is it? A city. It has five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island. Yet Manhattan is, in many ways, the heart of New York City, the symbol for the entire city, the foundation. Not to degrade the other boroughs, for they are all great and a part of New York City (except, maybe, for Staten Island, which kind of just sucks).

So anyway, one seens Manhattan from a distance, the incredible skyline. Even though I have lived here for nearly 3 years I am always struck by the skyline. You think to yourself, wow, New York. But then you actually get into Manhattan, and yes, it can be amazing, but the shift is subtle, from seeing the grand skyline, the immense buildings from a distance, and then actually being within in it, inside its boundaries.
I guess what I'm saying is that, perhaps, a huge part of Manhattan is the anticipation, and then once you're in it, is the change really all that great? Now, I suppose in some ways, yes. You get into Manhattan and everything is rapid, tons of people walking, taxis honking, etc. So being in it does feel different. But I want you to meditate on the distinction of seeing the city and being in it. There's something important in that. Everything breaks down in analysis, it sometimes seems. What does it mean to be in New York, what is New York in itself, and is there a difference?

So anyway, I walked, went to the bathroom in the Citi building, the tallest building in Queens, and from there it was a 10 minute walk to the edge. I found myself at a construction site where they are building high rises.

The fringe of the construction site. You can see an SUV, next to which were a bunch of tires.

I had to walk around the construction site to get to the shore, and I found a great pier with some benches. I lied down, or layed, whatever it is, and just enjoyed the soft breeze. Breath in; breath out. All things come and go. The world as we know it both exists and doesn't exist. I think I need to poop again.

A picture taken while I was laying, or lying, whatever it is, on the bench, thinking Zen thoughts and bowel-movement thoughts. The pants you see are Gap straight-fit jeans. They're pretty nice.

So anyway, that was my adventure. I later had some pizza and two McChicken sandwiches, which is a pretty major breaking of the Passover laws. Oh well. The breading on my pork chop was a pretty major transgression, as well.

See you in hell!