So after my long, dreary winter in New York, which was preceded by a cold venture into archival research in the U.K., I was ready to leave off the woolens and enjoy the pleasures of the city’s spring. (For those unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it’s after the islands of dirty snow disappear but before the rotting garbage smell appears and the sixth circle of hell expands to include the subway.)
Once the semester ended, friends and I began to make brief forays into the world, like fledglings uncertain of new wings. The first trip was to the Queens Museum, which is in the Corona neighborhood, and also marks the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve known it from the Men in Black scene in which the alien tries to take off in the “flying saucers” and Agents J and K blow up the Unisphere.
Luckily, that was just Hollywood magic and no structures were harmed in the making of the film. Whew.
The museum itself is a sleek space but with an interesting Martha’s Vineyard- wealthy-rustic beach house vibe to the central area. My friend and I dodged children engaged in some sort of weekend-parent-torture ritual (termed art camp) and a performance artist who was posing a hindrance to getting to the fire exits. (You never know when you’ll need them!)
After wandering through an uninspiring exhibit on post-Independence artists from Bombay, it was the diorama of New York City, with its miniature realism, that we found more absorbing.
Stretching several hundred feet, it’s like a child’s Lego project curated by an OCD parent. At some points, you walk over the display, which makes one feel Gulliverish–not an experience a 5-ft nothing usually gets to have.
On the way back to Jackson Heights, we decided to walk under the 7 train, enjoying corn-on-the-cob bought from a street vendor and speculating if these neighborhoods will succumb to the wave of gentrification that is rolling inland in seemingly unstoppable fashion from the western shores of Queens.
For the next summer outing, a friend suggested a trip to a vineyard in Warwick, NY, followed by that most American of pastimes, a drive-in movie double feature. We drove out from Queens in the afternoon on a Sunday and made pretty good time once we were freed from traffic near Hackensack. (Don’t you just love these names?) Small towns in the East have a slightly different feel from middle America, sort of like Audrey Hepburn vs. Angelina Jolie–both striking but indefinably different.
First off, we stopped at the vineyard for a wine-tasting, putting away a flight of their wines as well as a taste of bourbon.
I can testify that the beverages were alcoholic but the taste left something to be desired. We resisted purchasing the other cute snacks that lined the store since they all originate from Brooklyn now and just sat on the patio. Apart from a confusing conversation with a little girl who was searching for the “mom” of the dog (Omar) she was watching, it was uneventful, and we set off to a restaurant we had agreed on after much searching of yelp/trip adviser/what food won’t suck.com
A short drive brought us to Eddie’s Roadhouse, where I broke my month-long meatless stretch and scarfed down my potato stix burger (a burger with potato stix on top of the patty, FYI).
I can tell you that it was worth every bacony, stixy bite. There’s just something about summer and grilled food. And fries. Actually winter and fries also go together. And fries and other seasons, too…but I digress.
Sated with high calorie food, we proceeded to the other Authentic American Experience® of the day at the Warwick drive-in. Unlike some drive-ins, this one has multiple screens and helpful docents waved us to the right one after handing us a flyer about drive-in etiquette and some lollipops–go figure. On the agenda were “Inside Out” and “Ant Man” and I insisted on getting some ice-cream before they began the screenings. (The etiquette list recommended patronizing the snack bar and it was National Ice Cream day–enough said.) Back at our car, we waited for dusk as families around us opened their truck tailgates, ate pizza, tried to make pajama-clad children stop wailing, and generally prayed for an end to the weekend (or to summer, possibly).
While a friend and I first sat outside on the grass (having liberally doused ourselves in life-threatening bug spray), the sound was weak since they were broadcasting over an FM frequency and the car radio couldn’t project to us. So we headed back in, the car having mercifully cooled off from the day’s punishing 90+ heat and humidity. It would have been fun even if the movie had been terrible, but since it was Pixar, we found it touching and I may even have shed a tear at the end.
Since the second movie would have gone till 12:30 and we needed to head back to the city, my friend carefully maneuvered us out of our spot, avoided driving over abandoned chairs and stray children, and got us back on the road at 10:30. From there, it seemed like a speedier drive back south-east and into the wide-awake city, unwilling to go to bed even after midnight on a Sunday. New York, New York, what a town.