O, Astoria!

In the light of Lonely Planet’s recent pick for #1 destination to travel within the US, I shall talk about how much I loved Queens – specifically Astoria, home to the Ranch – when I lived in New York.

photo courtesy of New York Times

photo courtesy of New York Times

Let the hipsters in Brooklyn condescend Queens and let Manhattanites act like the civilization ends with the Queensboro Bridge and you need to commute with donkeys after. I’m a proud former Astorian.

Yes, Brooklyn may have the hippest, coolest places, can it compare to the niceness of Queens people? And the commute… The places you can actually afford now in Brooklyn are so far that it’s really difficult for people who work in the city. Don’t even get me started on the L or the G train… I love the N train! Commute is so convenient to the city if you live on the N line that you start planning your social life based on whether or not where you’re going is close to N,Q line. Both Central Park and Prospect Park are on the N or Q line, I worked in Midtown, and Herald Sq Stop was 20 min. away, Union Sq, East Village, Soho, Chinatown… And it’s on the major transfer hubs, so if you do need to transfer, it’s not difficult.

When I lived at the Ranch, it was at the last stop (Ditmars) of the N/Q trains, so if and when I fall asleep on the train, kind strangers would gently wake me up so I wouldn’t find myself going back and forth and finally at a strange & bad neighborhood (I’m not saying it didn’t happen anyway at 4 AM one night, but it happened much less than any other places).

30th Ave after Greece's win of a game in the FIFA '14

30th Ave after Greece’s win of a game in the FIFA ’14

Astoria has the nicest, friendliest people. There is this shared feeling of ‘I know I live in the coolest neighborhood, but it’s hard for other people to understand’. The local bodegas, laundromat people, coffee shops, waiters and bartenders are always so friendly and give you some slack if you are short on money by dimes or nickles.

And Astoria Park? Just pretty!

Don’t even get me started on the food! Ah, the food. So so delicious. I may be partial to the food because I’m Turkish, and it’s a Greek neighborhood, which is basically the same food (sorry Turks and Greeks, we gotta just admit we eat the same stuff and get on with our lives without caring who came up with what).

Not just the Greek food, almost everything is more delicious there. So here are some of my humble recommendations if you go to Astoria (and you should).

 

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Apartment Hunting Blues

Anyone who has ever lived in New York City at least once suffers the ailment called the apartment hunting – unless you are extremely lucky, or you are the offspring of a president or a king (or you are a president or a king), so maybe I should just change my ailment name to ‘apartment hunting on a budget’ (but of course, anyone who ever lived in New York –or any big city, I suppose– also  knows that ‘on a budget’ is a reaaally relative term. You can live like royals in other places with just your NY rent money. But, I digress). It’s not just the passive-aggresive roommate bullshit or the claustrophobic room sizes, it’s the actual apartment hunting process that’s the pain. After all, there is such a thing called the perfect apartment with the perfect situation (if you lower your expectations, of course) but nobody hands it to you. Actually, more often than not, you can’t even find it. Because there are a handful of perfect apartments and a buttload of apartment hunters. So even if you do find it, the competition is so fierce that the chances are you’re not gonna get it unless you move super fast and have everything ready at hand. So like most New Yorkers, I had my fair share of apartment hunting stories. It actually took me a long and windy road to get to the Ranch. So here’s my tale.

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Returning Home

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our new skyline

Home is where the heart is…
Or where the passport’s from…
Or where you keep your stuff…

Interesting question come to think of it. At this point, I’ve different answers to these questions. Over the past few years, I’ve been hopping around from location to location. The latest in my long list of passport stamps has lead me home to Singapore.

It’s been a grand total of 5 years since I’ve been home. Dang, that’s weird to say out loud. If you’re Singaporean, ever been to Singapore or know anyone from there, it’s an eternity in the evolution of this tiny little island. 2015 will officially mark 50 years of independence. Things have gotten a lot more interesting since I left.

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