How Sweet It Was!

photo, manhattan, water taxi beach, long island city, queens Water Taxi Beach, spa and oasis with a view.

Monster Slabs of Cheesecake

Paris:– Monday, 11. September–  When it comes to being a tourist I don't think I'm going to get any awards from NYC & Company, the official Web site of the City. Guide books make my eyes close their shutters and Web sites make them glaze over.

Luckily I have friends in New York who spend a lot of time reading the small print in Time Out New York or TONY for short. One of the first things I heard was that Manhattan is too expensive. Luckily TONY covers Queens too.

I stepped off the plane from Paris into 100 degrees Fahrenheit with considerable humidity and only part–time air conditioning. All the windows were open and grinding delivery trucks and howling jets from La Guardia were flying through while everybody else's elderly air conditioning units groaned night and day. I do remember what prompted a boiling visit to Penny's at Queens Center shopping mall in Elmhurst but the dinner at the Tacqueria Coatzingl on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights was delirious inspiration, a crazed desire for a taco and some of that hot sauce.

photo, subway line 7, platform in queens View from subway line 7 in Queens.

It stayed hot hot hot so the next night I ended up at the Spicy & Tasty Chinese hotfood restaurant in Flushing, which was just a prelude to do a little dirt dancing in the garden of Flushing Town Hall which had a live group doing Beach Boys grooves from those oldie golden days when nobody cared if they were saps. Afterwards there was a cool drink featuring mango bullets in some sort of orange and yellow Asian fruit juice bar.

No sooner had I recovered than I was taking the steaming subway to Astoria to hook up with some visiting French folks who had been promised some Greek eats at Stamatis family taverna and this evolved into after drinks at the Athens Café with 500 loud Greeks. Luckily, on the way over there, we were unable to outwait the mob trying to get into the Bohemian Hall beer gardens.

Sunday seemed a bit cooler plus a day to take it easy so I climbed aboard the good old W train for the long haul from Queens through Manhattan and Brooklyn to the seaside resort of the world's original Dodger fans, fabulous Coney Island. It was sunny, clear, bright, and there was more than enough space to hold another million seaside fans, especially if Brighton Beach was included. After A reasonable inspection I retired to Junior's on Flatbush Avenue downtown for a tiny taste of cheesecake. Then I took the long way back. It means I checked to make sure the Hudson River was where I left it.

photo, city island, bronx The only deep–water harbor in the Bronx.

Then I didn't do anything, go anywhere, or eat anything for two days. Well, do anything – I had some Korean ladies give me a pedicure and a manicure, just to keep up my daily quota of 'firsts.' After that there were another couple of days of apparent nada, ending with a flood of rain. It could have reminded me of Hong Kong during the Monsoon if I had ever been there.

On Friday I had to have my ritual fish'n'chips at Donovan's in Woodside and that led spontaneously to climbing on the subway line 7 elevated platform for a priceless view of sunset, which of course evolved into a ride to Astoria again and a terrace table at the Athens Café for a gallon of iced coffee and three pounds of dessert, either the Ekmek Kataifi or the Galacto Boureko. Actually, it was both. For this reason I skipped the nearby Mr. Taco truck.

Nigel, the occasional Daguerrista, was in town, just returned from surfing in Hawaii where he was nearly done in by a wave, so we arranged to meet at the Bohemian Hall beer garden on 24th Avenue, in Astoria again. After enough good beers and orange juice we found Uncle George's Omonia Café on Broadway. Except for the howling baby it was fine and so were the later gallons of ice coffee across the street in another taverna.

Then it was Sunday, bright and shining, and the non–dietary goal of my visit was at hand. The MTA's line 7 trundled westwards towards Manhattan but I got off at Long Island City for the walk to the near–mythical Water Taxi Beach. It was everything I'd dreamed – ratlands, etc. – oh, I am wordless at the thought of it all! Vowing to return, I boarded a water taxi for the $10 mystery tour and added the South Street Seaport, Red Hook and the Statute of Liberty to my tour score, without, alas, eating anything. That was taken care of on the Upper East Side, known locally as UES.

photo, hong's shoes, shop, astoria Pride in Astoria.

I was about to write that there was another period of nada but by Tuesday I was in Flushing again, at Spicy and Tasty again. Before going there Paul looked at the WiFi router I'd purchased 10 days earlier between meals, and tricked it into working while Randy cheered. I cheered too. But by then I had gained too much weight to be able to type so it was a hollow triumph. My notes say I gave it a shot the next day but evidence is scanty. I probably had 750 junk emails to destroy by then.

It was somewhat gray the following day when I took the F train to 34th Street in Manhattan and walked over to 9th Avenue, to the world headquarters of B & H Photo to see if they had a doodad for the camera. Of course they did! Now I can see what I am pointing it at. What a neat improvement. I rewarded myself with a random pass through Times Square and then went up 5th Avenue to see the the kids playing with iPods at the new Apple Store. On the spot I decided to deal with my potentially exploding battery later.

photo, outdoor toy shop, jackson heights, bollywood Toy shopping in Bollywood, Queens.

I think I slept all day Friday until it was time to go to Water Taxi Beach again and photograph the sunset. For some reason there was no visit to Astoria. Just as well because it was back to Flushing the next afternoon with Joel from DC and Cookie from Philly and Z's sister and we were all in Spicy and Tasty and then off to Shea Stadium to see the Metzies quit fumbling late in the game and beat the Colorado Rockies. Only Cookie was up for going to Astoria.

On Sunday I got $120–worth of silk shirts made in China from Macy'sin Elmhurst for $26.48 after all sales, bonuses and discounts were deducted. Suitably attired on Monday I rode the 6 train north for hours, to the Bronx. At the end of the line I then got a bus for City Island and had an exciting walking tour of inspection there, passing 78 fish restaurants and glimpsing many fine views of the Bronx waterfront.

Luckily there's a bus from the Bronx to Flushing. This provided a sort of shortcut to the old–time Cuban restaurant Rincon Criolla in Corona. This is close to Louis Armstrong's house that I would later visit on a cloudy day, but first I had to have a Cuban sandwich at El Sitio on Tuesday. I needed a garlic booster.

Wow, this is getting tiring. I'd been to Water Taxi Beach, three times in Astoria, at B & H Photo, got some nifty shirts and seen a Mets game. What could be left?

I must have been feeling guilty because I went to Coliseum Books on 42nd Street on Wednesday, to get something for my mind to play with. After a wasted Thursday on Friday I took a PATH train from 33rd Street over to Hoboken in New Jersey, looking for French cigarettes. Except for the Hoboken Cigar Company it seemed like I landed in a no–smoking zone. It's worth a visit if you want to see what America looked like in the late 1940's.

photo, louis armstrong house, corona, queens Louis Armstrong's house in Corona, Queens.

That pretty well left going out to Flushing again, but in the pouring rain, for the first day of the US Open. By then tropical storm Ernesto was playing itself out but 20,000 tennis fans standing in line for the security bag check were unimpressed. Hours later when we got inside the rain had stopped and the sun was out in the afternoon. I'm glad I waited this long to see a tennis match. Another ten years and it might have been too late.

Yeah, so the next day it was Satchmo's house, followed by taking in a Bollywood movie at the old Eagle cinema in Jackson Heights. On Wednesday I met Nigel again on Prince Street in Chelsea. He wanted to look for his old girlfriend's place in Sullivan Street in the Village but he couldn't find the bar he used to run out to in 1966. We went to the Café Figaro because it was handy and had cheese sandwiches and then a Jamaican hustler tried to sell me a condo on the Bowery. Promised to pay me 'thousands' out of his own pocket too.

This kind of only left the tugboats races at Chelsea Piers on Sunday. I wish I'd gotten there in time to see them. A towboat–type guy told us some 9000 horsepower boat won. After walking around looking at five zillion dollar cruisers registered in the taxless Cayman Islands and seeing the insane golf driving setup on one of the piers – four stories high! – we crossed town and caught the line 6 subway for the ride up to 103rd Street in Harlem, to have a listen to some cool jazz outside in Central Park. That was pretty mellow.

So low stress in fact, that we arranged with Z's sister to meet at Junior's in Grand Central station, so we could top up with some outrageously huge New York–style sandwiches – with frites! – and finish off with monster slabs of cheesecake. Gulp.

photo, 1st day, us open, french player Grand slam in Flushing Meadows.

Bare with me. On Monday the search for folks selling pieces of roasted pig on the sidewalks under the elevated along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona scored zero. Weekends are supposed to be better for it, but it was Labor Day and a holiday. Tuesday was quiet, until the evening in a bar named Nuova with a wide–screen TV showing a Mets game on the sports channel. A last chance to have black beans and rice wasn't to be wasted so it wasn't. The Mets lost, but they are so far ahead it didn't matter.

Not even the pouring rain for the ride in the black Lincoln limo to Kennedy on Tuesday put any damp on my bones, insulated as they were by spicy noodles, cheesecake, black beans, tacos, sour pickles, grilled chicken, gallons of orange juice and enough cold coffee to keep the Vatican awake for centuries. Then the girl in the terminal bar said their espresso machine was broken. I remembered how Jackie Gleason used to say, "How sweet it is!" and just let it go.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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