Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight


It’s Just a Season…

 

There is an enormous pile of rubble where my grocery store used to be. A wrecking ball tore through that sucker, and all that’s left is a mound of crumbling red ruins surrounded by a deep green construction fence. They’ve torn it down to make room for a huge pile of glass-block condos with a shopping center on the bottom floor. The old grocery had a going-out-of-business sale a few months ago, and all I got out of the deal was some half-price tin foil and a bag of cinnamon chips. They were already out of chocolate.

Up the street, our local bagel shop swapped out wood paneling and linoleum floors for white subway tile, marquee letters, and free Wi-Fi. Another bagel shop further up started selling Bacon-BBQ cream cheese; such a blasphemous mutation of a New York classic even my Bubbie in Houston is rolling over in her grave. My corner bodega now sells kale smoothies. My hair salon, where very mature women go for their weekly wash-and-set, just got a makeover too. They rolled over the bright green paint that made complexions sallow and painted every inch soft mauve, one wall covered in that plush upholstered fabric you’d see in a rich woman’s closet. I wonder if they’ll keep the sign in the window advertising group bus trips to Atlantic City. Somehow I doubt it. They probably consider it tacky now.

Astoria, Queens

The Athens Cafe, a classic Greek coffee shop where people could sip frappes and eat flaky honeyed pastries for hours, closed after 30 years. Now a trendy Southern spot where they slip duck fat in the biscuits takes its place. We went Saturday night. The biscuits were amazing. The duck fat really does add incredible flavor. What was my point again?

It’s getting crowded here. It’s getting younger too. Hipper. More hoodies and Chuck Taylors. More ironic beards than real ones. Tin ceilings in coffee shops. There are so, so many coffee shops. And rents! Gah! Don’t even talk to me about the rents.

But who am I to complain? Am I allowed to? Aren’t I being hypocritical?

I’m not a native New Yorker. I wasn’t raised in this neighborhood, or anywhere near it. I live in a city, where change is constant and inevitable. For me to expect Astoria to look and feel the way it did ten years ago is foolish and naive. This is not MY NEW YORK or MY ASTORIA. I didn’t found this city. I don’t get to decide who and what sticks around. I’m a hypocrite. I complain about change, while absolutely LOVING most of the changes.  Vin and I have tried almost every new restaurant in town. We are those assholes rolling in with wide-brimmed hats and skinny jeans. We would put subway tile in our kitchen if we had one. We crane our necks up at tin ceilings in coffee shops and sigh because we find them so beautiful. I’m exactly who real New Yorkers complain about when they complain about gentrification– I just got here earlier. Vinny gets a pass because he was born here, and also because he is Vinny, and Vinny is so damn charming it’s hard to be annoyed with him about anything. Plus, hello…his name is Vinny and what’s more New York than that?

Meanwhile, I worry about Old Astoria being pushed out by New Astoria. I sigh about potentially losing businesses I’ve never patronized. I want the shoe cobbler to have work forever. I don’t want the barber shop to let go of their striped pole or start serving shots of whiskey like they do in Manhattan. I hate how sugary their cakes are, but I’d never want that 60-year-old bakery to lose their lease.  What if they close the old vacuum repair shop? The one that fixes only 20-year-old models? Wouldn’t it be sad if that fabric store went away? What will become of the neighborhood if we lose the European housewares stores? The ones that sell fuzzy toilet seat covers and lace tablecloths that look like huge doilies? Where will Astoria find its charm then?

When I moved to Astoria ten years ago, it wasn’t the trendy neighborhood it is now. It was safe and there were plenty of things to eat here, but it wasn’t a place where the reputation was such that they could charge ridiculous rents for small, nondescript apartments. Now it is, which sucks, unless we are actually able to buy property here, in which case… keep growing Astoria! I think you need another really great pour-over coffee place on Steinway Street! See? Hypocrite!

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It’s early November, and the leaves are wearing their autumn colors. We don’t have a ton of trees on our block, but the ones we do have are definitely in their prime. It doesn’t get more beautiful than autumn leaves, it really doesn’t. Check your Instagram. Everyone agrees.

The changing of the leaves signals a last hurrah for the growing season, and the transition is fast, moving from green to red to gold to bare in a matter of weeks. We’re already through the better part of the show; the leaves will all be on the ground by next week, and the thought of it makes me sad. As the leaves fall and the branches go cold, I remind myself that time is a gypsy, forever packing up and traveling in and out of town. I remind myself that nothing is eternal; that everything–eventually– will change. That change can be good. That it’s all just a season.

sad tree

 

 

 

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • http://www.wearflowersinyourhair.com/ Nina B
    Beautiful reminder. Beautiful writing.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Thank you Nina!
  • Alaine Mahoney
    Me and my husband Eddie have lived in Astoria for 4 years. We’ve always walked down our block, nodding “hello” and occasionally chatting with our 60+ year old Greek neighbors who have lived their entire lifetime in lawn chairs in their driveways about the weather, the neighborhood, our families (marriage, illness, death… anything really). Meanwhile, there is now this elephant in the room: an enormously tall (at least for Astoria) new building complex being loudly constructed across the street from us. We all hate it. Then, as I remarked how our closet and shower doors always come off the hinges, and our faucet was installed the wrong way, and the walls are so thin, and the hallway always smells like marijuana, and our front door never latches closed (so I may get followed into the building and murdered, obviously), and the elevator is rickety, Eddie said, “so, would you ever consider moving into that new building if the rents were somewhat reasonable?” I gasped in horror at the thought. How could he switch positions like that? IS HE A HIPSTER NOW? Was he always this fickle? WHO DID I MARRY? To get away from all the crazy talk, I left my apartment and walked past the old fabric store, the local butcher shop and the corner bakery to grab my tall soy latte from Starbuck’s. I carefully hide the cup as I walk past my neighbors. Nobody needs to know I’m outraged with a side of hypocritical.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Thanks for your comment, Alaine. Clearly, we are experiencing many of the same things at the same time in this hood! Well, it’s clear we live on the same street, and it’s clear we are having the same response to the changes that are happening SO fast on it. It really does scare me how quickly things are moving around here. PS: That old butcher shop (Vinny used to go there with his grandfather as a kid:) is the bomb and if that goes away, this place really is going down the crapper.
  • Steph Gregerson
    One of our best friends lives in Astoria and has been there for years. He is constantly complaining about his favorite places going away, but then at the same time, he’s excited to try the new places. It’s a constant tug of war. It’s an amazing neighborhood.
    • http://muchtomydelight.com/ Jenn from much to my delight
      Yup! Pretty much! It’s in a very weird phase right now, for sure. The brand new stuff sits right next to the very old stuff and the contrast is kind of startling.