For a Day
By Eric Weiss
For many visitors to New York City, the borough
of Queens is experienced only through a grimy taxi cab window as they
travel to and from the
two major airports, JFK and LaGuardia. That’s a real shame, because
while Manhattan certainly has the most glitz and glamour of the boroughs,
it can be argued that Queens is the true heart of this city.
As the city’s largest and most diverse borough, Queens is a microcosm of
the world. After all, it’s a place where recently arrived immigrants from
across the globe share the streets, stores and parks with lifelong Queens diehards,
and somehow it all manages to work out beautifully. A tour of Manhattan’s
United Nations will set you back 12 bucks, but if you want a truly multicultural
NY experience, spend an afternoon on the streets of Queens, where there’s
never an admission fee, unless, of course, you get mugged!
Kidding aside, no trip to NYC should be considered complete without spending
some quality time in Queens. Plus, Manhattan is so last year. What follows is
an extremely opinionated guide to what makes Queens the place to be…
Museum of the Moving Image
Most museums are so incredibly boring that the only reason you’d ever go
is to impress a date. This museum, however, is actually fun and (ack!) educational.
Its website describes the museum as being, “dedicated to educating the
public about the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television,
and digital media and to examining their impact on culture and society.” Yeah,
yeah, yeah, I’m sure that description gets them funding, but I’ll
tell you what you really need to know. The last time I was there they had the
original, life-sized figure of a possessed Linda Blair from The Exorcist. Seeing
that was worth the price of admission alone ($10 for adults; Friday evenings
And, for all you video game nerds, they have an exhibition entitled, “Digital
Play: Reloaded,” which, get this, is an exhibition of classic video games
like Donkey Kong and Mortal Kombat! And, the best part is, your admission entitles
you to play the games… for free! Never have I given myself over to the
pursuit of knowledge like I have at the Museum of the Moving Image. 35 Avenue
at 36 Street, (718) 784-4520, www.movingimage.us.
Queens probably boasts more famous dead people than we do living ones. As a borough,
Queens has a lot of cemetery land, as back in the day there was a great deal
of open space in which to bury the city’s dead. Queens’ famous corpses
include Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Dizzy Gillepsie, fitness icon
Charles Atlas, mob boss John Gotti, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, the “King
of One Liners” Henny Youngman, civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, Bert
Lahr (the cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz… apparently he has found his
Oz, and it’s in Queens), and my personal favorite, Ehrich Weiss, otherwise
known as Harry Houdini! As great an escape artist as he was, unfortunately, death
was the one lock he couldn’t quite crack. See www.findagrave.com.
Some people like eating at swank, overpriced restaurants with portions as big
as your thumb. If you’re like me, however, you’d rather opt for good
food, humongous portions and a cheap price over being seen at the latest hotspot.
For the ultimate in authentic South Indian cuisine the place to go is Flushing’s
Dosa Hutt. Sure it’s a hole in the wall, and yeah, there’s hardly
any place to sit, but the second you try their absolutely amazing Masala Dosa
(best described as a crisp crepe with spiced potatoes stuffed inside), you’ll
know exactly why you’re there. And at the bargain price of only $3.25 each,
eating only one is barely an option. 45-63 Bowne Street near 45 Avenue, (718)
Living in Queens gives its residents a unique perspective. It’s close enough
to Manhattan so its thriving cultural, music and art worlds are a part of the
experience of living in Queens, yet it’s far enough away so most Queens
residents still consider Manhattan “the city.” This relationship
with Manhattan—the big city inspiration and influence combined with an
outsider status—has made Queens the perfect place to foster cutting edge
musical genres, namely hip-hop and hardcore punk.
In the realm of hip-hop, Queens boasts rap pioneers Run DMC, the first rap group
ever to garner a platinum album. Among the many rappers who put and keep Queens
on the hip-hop map are LL Cool J, Nas, Mobb Deep, and current phenom 50 Cent.
Not to be outdone by the rap world, Queens has also been at the forefront of
punk rock and hardcore. The Ramones, who for many symbolize the 1970s CBGB’s
punk rock scene, are actually Queens natives. In more recent years, legendary
hardcore bands like Sick of it All, Token Entry and Gorilla Biscuits have called
The NY Mets
Sure, the Yankees have the history, all those championships and “The House
That Ruth Built.” But, I’ll let you in on a little NY secret—real
New Yorkers, honest to goodness, blue blood, New York in their bones New Yorkers,
root for the boys from Queens, not those snobs from the Bronx. For one thing,
NY has always been a National League town, after all, the Brooklyn Dodgers and
the NY Giants were both National League clubs. Secondly, no matter how much they
may win, and no matter how many times Derek Jeter smiles for the camera, the
fact is, the Yankees suck. I mean really, rooting for them to win is like rooting
for Bill Gates to make more money. It just doesn’t make sense.
New York is a town that loves cheering for underdogs, and if there ever was an
underdog of a team, it’s the Mets. After all, Shea stadium is ugly, we’ve
had more losing seasons than winning ones and we’ve only got two World
Championships. But, throughout the years, what the Mets have lacked in talent
they’ve made up for in heart, and if that’s not reason enough to
root for them, I don’t know what is.
Besides, who wants to cheer for a team that former Mayor Guiliani counts as his
personal favorite? Not I. See www.mets.com.
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