I’ve come to realize that I tend to be very terse when writing about life changes. While I’m happy to gush about job changes or anecdotes, things going on in my personal life feel almost less relevant.
But that, obviously, is ridiculous.
This is my last post from our apartment in Astoria; tomorrow around noon, I must drag the cable modem back to Time Warner and terminate my service. Friday afternoon brings movers, and movers will bring us to Jersey City. I should be back on line by Friday night, but this post officially closes the book on our five years in Queens.
Since September of 2003, we have been in the same apartment in Astoria, Queens. Like many apartments, it was full of pros and cons, almost always linked together. It has a gorgeous entranceway; it was the basement of a private house. It is in a quiet neighborhood; it is thirteen blocks from the subway. All utilities are included in our rent; because our windows are at the ground level (and thus have security bars), there is no air conditioning. We have our own entrance; delivery-men frequently could not find us. We have no lease, so we can leave at any time; we have no lease, so some maintenance issues took a long time to get fixed.
That “no lease” condition caused one more anomaly: our rent hasn’t gone up in the five years, either. So while our incomes have gone up and up, our core living costs have not. This may not sound like a bad thing – hell, it actually sounds fantastic on paper. But in practice, this left us with an increasing margin of disposable income, leading to a sort of lifestyle that I’ll readily admit has not been healthy or practical.
The search for a new place actually started in 2004. But we frequently ran into depressing conditions and shady brokers, as is the way of NYC real estate. After an eternity of off-and-on searching, we spent a Saturday in Jersey City visiting a few buildings. The neighborhood grabbed us, so very clean and quiet. The closeness to Manhattan struck us: ten minutes instead of half an hour – we’d be closer to the city. And ultimately, it was falling in love with an apartment that gave us seemingly everything we were looking for.
So we pounced on it, literally 10 minutes before another group had asked to put in an application for the same apartment. It’s a significant step-up in rent, and the utilities are no longer free, but both Katie and I agree we’re ready for a change. It’s time we started putting our money into our living conditions rather than DVDs and vinyl toys.
It’s time we grew up, at least a little.
As excited as I am about getting a fresh start in a new place, in a new building, I’m also more than a little sad.
I could not have wished for a more unique neighborhood to have started my experiences of NYC than the north end of Astoria. I cannot state this enough. If you ever find yourself considering moving to NYC, do not overlook it.
I will miss it immensely. I will miss the people: our landlords, a sweet older Spanish couple who knew very little English but were always happy to see us. Their daughter and her family, our primary contacts and always telling us not to worry about things. Our neighbors, a sweet old lady across the street and her grown-up kids, who all still lived within the same block.
I will miss the businesses where we became regulars: the local independent game store, the laundromat, the salon.
I will miss the food: such great restaurants, many of which I’ve tried to do justice to with loving blog posts. Astoria, despite the Greek reputation, is an evenly distributed melting pot. There is fantastic pizza, great Italian, decent Japanese, authentic Mexican, tasty Chinese, and a wide range of Middle Eastern at your disposal.
I will miss Martha’s Country Bakery like you would not believe.
I will miss the religion. I am not observant by any stretch, but along our walk to the train, a Greek Orthodox church could be found one block away from a mosque, and there were frequent street festivals or celebrations at one or the other. No hate, no animosity, just religions co-existing.
I will miss the N/W being my way home. Yes, the MTA is a bitter pill to swallow, but when the N or W were running properly, they were the best line in the city. They run straight through the heart of town, down through Brooklyn, all the way to my beloved Coney Island.
I will miss the shared experiences. In our time here, we experienced a week-long blackout, a flood, and a transit strike. Massive heartaches, all, but they brought us closer together with those around us.
There are certainly things I won’t miss: the older men who think misogyny is not only a right but a responsibility; the smell of piss in the summer; the endless construction for the last three years by Amtrak; the sound of trucks bottoming out on the road not 10 feet from our windows.
But the negatives will fade from my memory soon. Astoria has been my home for five years, longer in my developed mind than any other home I’ve had save my parent’s house in Trumansburg. This is the first long-term home I’ve had that we have directly been responsible for. My memories of New York City will forever be shaped by this strange nook in the corner of Queens. I look forward to returning in the future not as a resident, but as a visitor, and seeing it with fresh eyes once again.
Farewell, Astoria. Thank you for everything.
Everyone has a story,
like a string of invisible Christmas lights
wound into the heart.
And every story has a story
that hides inside its own labyrinth.
The past has a story
as wide and as deep as the world.
Every word has a story
and every stone.
– “A Story”, Malena Morling