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March 2006
Queen(s) For a Day
By Eric Weiss

 

Mr. Met. Photo: www.mets.com

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 free).

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.

The Dead
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.

Dosa Hutt
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) 961-6228.

Music
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 Queens home.

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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