My friends Donna and Tom are leaving New York this week. They’re headed to Florida to move permanently into the townhouse they purchased a few years ago. It’s a step towards retirement but no one has actually said that out loud. She’s taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself and as she mumbled on the phone the other night, “It’s time.”
Donna also said, “I’ve lived in this apartment longer than any other place in my life including my childhood home.” That hit me like a bullet between the eyes. I moved into my apartment a few months after she moved into hers. The year was 1991. Yes, a long time ago and I too have lived the majority of my life at this address. It’s no wonder I’ve grown out of it.
Back in the fall of 2009, I was looking in earnest for a new home. I explored Brooklyn and in hindsight any purchase there would have been a good one. I hadn’t yet settled on an apartment when the year 2010 arrived bringing death and destruction to my world. To say my life fell apart, would be an understatement. It imploded on every level and the only thing that kept me grounded was my little apartment here in Chelsea. Leaving was not only an unthinkable idea but a physically impossible task.
It’s been four years and my health is back. Suddenly, I’m drooling over the real estate web sites again. Only now, what catches my eye I don’t have enough money for. I want space and charm which demands a hefty sum here in New York. So, I’m saving. Dare I mention that New York is a lot less fun on a tight budget? It is. The one luxury I’m allowing myself is a game I came up with. I’m dating neighborhoods. Dinner, a movie or just a long walk to acquaint myself with places I’ve never been to. These explorations help me understand the real estate addresses. I’ve decided to give you a peak into what I’ve seen.
The first is Astoria, Queens.
Exactly 55 minutes from Union Square in Manhattan and the very last stop on the N train is Ditmars Blvd. Station. Down the steps and crossing by the elevated train trestle that rattles with the arrival and departure of every train is Astoria Queens. The only thing I ever heard about the place was from Christopher Walken’s father. He owned a bakery in Astoria and one afternoon I sat with him grilling hot dogs as he told me in detail how to bake bread. We were in Connecticut and he must have been in his 80’s with a soft voice and an accent etched with hints of Queens and Germany. I was hungry and just sat there nodding. Later in the day, I learned he wasn’t allowed to eat hot dogs and was horrified as I was the one who brought them. I didn’t dare mention he had 3 in one sitting and prayed he lived until I was safely on the train back to New York. It was the early 80’s and Christopher wasn’t the big star he is today and I was his cat sitter in New York when he and his wife were out of town. His father lived a few more years beyond that afternoon and I had launched into my career by then.
It was my friends Elena and Julia who suggested we explore Astoria and besides bakeries it also boasts of amazing Greek food. We ate at The Original Stamatis Restaurant which is on 23rd Avenue and a short walk from the subway. Astoria has a few apartment buildings but it is mostly made up of two story brick houses like the ones pictured below.
I’m not sure who named the roads in Queens but it is so confusing that you have to know the neighborhoods by sight. 23rd Avenue is next to 23rd Road which is next to 23rd Terrace with 23rd Street running perpendicular to all of the afore mentioned 23rd’s. They are all near Astoria Park which boarders the East River with beautiful views of the Tribrough Bridge and Hells Gate Bridge.
Astoria is a sweet area but it just didn’t feel like a place I wanted to call home. I’ll go back for the food though!