Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This is my new neighborhood for a while. It is a big change from the boat in the Bahamas and certainly from midtown Manhattan and Chelsea, where I lived before moving onto the boat. Astoria, or at least my part of it, is full of small front yards with low fences, long alleys between and behind buildings that can conveniently cut short your walk around the block, the high rumble of the Amtrak passing overhead nearby, and the wind that rushes in off the East River around the Triborough Bridge. And of course, there are occasional Greek key symbols and sunburst motifs on window grills and front doors, not to mention a big, multiple blue-domed Greek Orthodox church.

It's been amusing photographing what people here do with a small front yard. There are religious icons...


...and animals.

Some are wild with growing things...

 ...while others are manicured or cemented.

Speaking of religious icons, Sunday afternoon, a police car and a snare drum came down my street and under my window, leading a procession of 25 black-clad people around a priest in white robes and a religious statue/shrine/altar. An eight-piece mini-marching band brought up the rear with a rendition of "Amazing Grace." I don't know what the occasion was. The banner, which read "I-Devoti di St. Giuseppe, Congregazione 1990," explained little.

Susie likes the neighborhood well enough: Astoria Park is pretty big and there is plenty of room to run during off-leash hours.  

Astoria Park is right by Hell's Gate, which is a notorious strip of the East River for its evil current. It's funny: I always used to like being by some body of water, but never felt any particular pull to *set out* on that water. That has completely changed now, and so when I walk by Hell's Gate and watch the current swooshing past, I feel a pang and take pictures of the sea where I see it now. I am blessed and I am cursed!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Culture Shock

I am back in NY, with no feasible plan to return to the boat, which is now sailing through the Bahamas with Evan alone. I am sad not to be with them anymore. But student loans must be paid and my dog must be looked after.

I got here only late Thursday night, but within the first 36 hours, I felt I'd been back for ages. I am trying to keep the sense of calm energy I have been carrying since I left Jentel and the Bahamas, but it is a challenge in this city. There are just so many people here and so much noise.

I did, however, have an unexpected moment of nostalgia in one of the most crowded places around: Macy's in Herald Square. Riding the old wooden escalators on my way to buy a new mattress, I suddenly felt thirteen years old again, the age at which I moved to New York from Los Angeles with my dad. For some reason, back then, quintessential New York was the wooden escalators at Macy's and revolving doors everywhere else.

Back outside on 34th Street, the perfumes and colognes and body odors of busy pedestrians mixed with the day's abnormally balmy air, dank subway drafts, and exhaust from honking traffic. I loved it. New York never fails to feel both completely new yet familiar every time I come back after having left it for a long while. It's like a very fast river that you can always count on to sweep you along with it. The challenge, though, is resisting the urge to fight the city's crazy current when you're tired. You just have to maneuver your way to the branches and rocks by the banks to rest against from time to time and watch, without anxiety or angst, the river sweeping past. My only fear is that this is only possible to do over the long term with the luxury of bottomless energy, patience, or money, or all three.

For now, though, I am simply enjoying the sunny hints of spring, reunions with much-missed friends, yummy and cheap Chinatown, and my own personal anchor of daily committed writing.