Monday, April 30, 2012

"Astorian April": Is it really still April?

It's fair to say I dropped the ball on the last week or so of this experiment. I have a good excuse, but I'm going to keep it to myself (mostly because if you're reading this you probably already know). However, I couldn't help but include a final post in this little cycle. After all, I even went to another neighborhood of Queens on Sunday: Forrest Hills. True to its name, Forrest Hills is very hilly.  It's generally a wealthier more suburban neighborhood, which was certainly true of the part I saw. According to Wikipedia, Paul Simon and Hank Azaria are both from there. So there's that.

I don't have anything fascinating to say about Forrest Hills because I was just there for a meeting and did just enough wandering to pronounce it a fine neighborhood. Which is a good thing, because due to the aforementioned excuse, I don't actually have time to relay an actually interesting story. Instead, enjoy this collection of photos that I found on the Internet. It will save you valuable time in compiling your own Forrest Hills photo array.

 This is Forrest Hills High School. I actually did see this in my short-lived travels around the neighborhood because it happened to be across the street from my appointment.

 They have Banks of America on the quiet small-town street corners of Forrest Hills. Just as they do everywhere.

This keeps showing up in my searches. It's called Station Square, and I get the impression it's kind of a big deal in Forrest Hills.

Before I go back to being productive, I just wanted to offer a few thoughts on this "Astorian April" project. Nuggets of wisdom I acquired, if you will.

1) Getting around Queens via public transportation is really hard. There is a reason I had to formally insert exploring Queens into my schedule--it doesn't just naturally happen.
2) My posts this past month have been really boring and uninspired. Not that I'm blaming the borough of Queens for my shoddy writing, per se. I'm just making the observation.
3) Farmer's Market duck salami is truly a revelation.
4) The R train sucks on the weekends.
5) I don't like limiting myself by theme because then I realize all the other things I'd rather be writing about.

I'll post a wrap up of all the non-Astorian April things I did this month soon. You know, once I'm done excuse-having.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Astorian" April: The long climb in LIC

On Wednesday, I journeyed to Long Island City to do a little rock climbing on what is apparently the tallest rock wall in all of New York City. When I signed up to go, I knew the wall was near me and right by the train, but I couldn't quite picture where a giant rock wall would be that I would somehow be unaware of. As it turns out, the wall is down a dead end street on the back side of a building facing a giant construction site (I'm not entirely sure what they're doing there, but I do know this particular site has been under construction for as long as I've lived in New York). Well hidden, as 60-foot rock walls go.

Note that this rock wall extends up four stories. This is the reason I'm sore two days later.

I showed up a little early but the guy working let me start climbing anyway. He said you can always tell the "gym climbers" because they get tired after a (perfectly reasonable) 35 feet. I wondered what that meant for people who used to be gym climbers four years ago, but haven't climbed anything steeper than a staircase since. Turns out--pretty intense. I was only able to scale the wall in its entirety once (which each ensuing climb hitting lower and lower on the wall). It's hard to tell in the photo, but the biggest challenge of this wall is that about ten feet from the top it juts out significantly, so just when you have no strength left, you have to heave yourself up a substantial overhang.

Here's someone beginning the climb (you can't see the bottom, but she's only about ten feet up).

The wall and the people who run it are part of Outward Bound, and the adult climbs they do on weekday evenings are just a small part of their day. The main purpose of the wall is to teach inner city kids how to climb, while learning about team building and adventuring. It's a great organization, and all of the money from the nightly adult climbs goes toward the cause. For this reason alone, I'd like to go back sometime when my arms are cool with it.

The sunset over the N train. Is it just me or are my photography skills improving?

The best part about a 60 foot wall is that the view from the top is amazing. Naturally, you get a great view of the bottomless construction pit next door, but beyond that, the Empire State Building and Manhattan skyline are just across the river. Even better than that, of course, is the view looking back into Queens. Making this another successful Astorian April outing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Astorian April": A taste of Jackson Heights

It was a lovely day Sunday, so I made a pilgrimage out to Jackson Heights to go to the farmers' market. I think, although I haven't looked it up to verify, the Jackson Heights green market is the only year round one in all of Queens. As part of my new commitment to the borough, it seemed only fitting that I check it out. Jackson Heights is also home to a famous Indian restaurant called the Jackson Diner. That was the only "site" I knew to be on the look out for (other than the farmers' market itself for which I had the foresight to look up directions), but I didn't happen upon it. Next time, if I'm actually going around a meal time, I'll make more of an effort.

Here are a few photos of my Sunday, for those of you who have also never been to Jackson Heights. I guess those of you who have been there can see them too. I'll try to make appropriate comparisons to Astoria so as to fit the month's theme.

Ah, the underbelly of the 7 train. A perk of living in Jackson Heights is that a number of express trains seem to stop here. Also, and maybe this is just a grass is always greener sort of thing, the 7 train seems to be much faster and more reliable than the stupid N train.

Jackson Heights has many more trees than Astoria. I didn't count them, so consider that a general observation.

I force my photographer to take artsy shots of spring in Jackson Heights. Just as I do in Astoria.

Also, artsy shots of the farmer's market. Since Astoria only has a farmer's market in the summer, it's hard to compare the two, although if hard pressed, I'd have to say this one is nicer. Next time, I'll make more of an effort to get there earlier. By the time, we arrived the duck guy was all out of bacon.

We came home (to Astoria) to have a lunch of our market wares. That's a salad of baby spinach and spicy greens (with a sesame ginger dressing), sweet potato fries, and a little bit of duck salami. Delicious and light! Also, is it just me, or are my food photography skills improving?

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Astorian" April: Er, miscellany? I guess we're almost halfway through April, and my plans to visit a lot of places in Queens/Astoria this week have gone somewhat awry. Part of the problem is that most of the events and places I want to go to are more weekend things. Also, I had every intention of doing a little "neighborhood spotlight" post on Forrest Hills, but then I found out I'll have a meeting coming up in Forrest Hills, so I decided to put off the train trip until then. But enough of my excuses! In the meantime, I thought I could post about my top 5 places in Queens. Places that I've already been to. See? Still in keeping with the Queens theme, but requiring a fraction of the effort. (Contrary to what the numbers would suggest, these are in no particular order)

5) Rockaway Beach

I almost hesitate to put this as a Queens location because, the easiest way to get there for those of us who don't have a car is to trek on the A train through Brooklyn. However, since it is in Queens--I'm claiming it! This is one of my preferred beaches because it's less gross than Coney Island and takes less time to get to than Long Beach. And, of course, because of my incredible Queen's pride

4) Corona Park, World's Fair Site

It harkens back to that bygone era (the 1960s) when Queens was given its due.

3) Queens Museum of Art, New York City Panorama

I've seen some interesting exhibits at the Queens Museum of Art, but my favorite thing is always the large New York City Panorama. I've heard they sometimes do trivia nights at the museum where they highlight certain sections of the panorama and ask questions about landmarks and neighborhoods of the city. Despite my love of trivia nights, I think I would be really terrible at that, which is why I haven't gone.

2) Socrates Sculpture Park

This has become one of my daily walking spots when the weather is nice and I want to go out on lunch. The sculptures change regularly, and in the summer they show movies and have workshops on everything from felt making to urban chicken raising.

1) Museum of Moving Image

Another one I can walk to. I used to think the Museum of Moving Image was really lame because it was only open for about 4 hours a day in the middle of week days, so it was impossible to ever go. However, after the re-vamp, they want to show it off, so it's open on weekends like a regular museum. They also have a couple of movie theaters where they show both old and recent films. I particularly enjoyed their recent retrospective on the Muppets.

I'm not actually sure if these are my top five favorite places in Queens or maybe just the first five I could think of. At any rate, I'm going to discover more in the coming weeks--no more excuses.

Also, totally unrelated, but I've spammed everyone though every other possible format, so it's time I take it to the blog. I'm trying to win a trip to New Orleans. If you're reading this and would like to vote for my entry (you can vote daily!), I would be much obliged. Here's the link.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Astorian" April: The Noguchi

The first year I moved to Astoria (which may or may not have actually been Long Island City), I lived in an apartment that was far from everything--trains, grocery stores, businesses that would sell my parents decent coffee and the New York Times when they visited--with the possible exception of a Costco. The upswing of living by a Costco is that I only actually bought toilet paper for a three bedroom apartment twice in a year. However, for everything else, it was a pretty inconvenient location. Similarly inconviently located a block away was the Noguchi Museum. This museum and sculpture garden was designed in the 80s by Isamu Noguchi to house his sculptures. Despite living a block away from it and the fact that it is located literally 10 feet from the back wall of the Costco, I never actually made it there.

Luckily, now I live firmly in Astoria, close to trains and within a 5-minute walk of three grocery stores, two 24-hour fruit and vegetable markets, and an organic shop that offers you the choice of ice cream or a wheat grass shot every time you spend over $20 (always the easiest decision I ever make). However, I'm still within a 20-minute walk of my old apartment and thus the Noguchi. I heard it was free the first Friday of every month, so this past Friday, I decided to do something culturally relevant with my lunch break.

The sculptures of the museum are indeed nice, but I think the bigger work of art is the museum they are housed in. Much like The Modern in Fort Worth, I found the building itself far more memorable than any individual piece on display. It is a two story structure with a small sculpture garden.

When you first enter the museum, you are actually outside, despite being under an overhang of the building. It's a cool effect because you wonder why it feels so open and then realize if you keep walking you are actually in the garden. Even the parts of the museum that are entirely enclosed use windows and light to their best advantage, so that you always feel a bit like you're still outside.

The other positive thing is that there are no explanations for any of the pieces on the walls to break the flow. Instead, at the beginning of each room you can pick up a laminated sheet that tells you what stone each sculpture is made of and when they were made. The explanations have little thumbnail photos next to them, so I guess if you were actually interested in following all the information, it would be something of a scavenger hunt.

The second floor of the museum has a cool wood floor that I want to say is teak, although I actually have no sense of different woods. Although I didn't take any pictures of it, it also had an interesting exhibit on the environmental future of Long Island City.

Anyway, that's the Noguchi Museum in a nut shell. I was happy to finally get the chance to go out there. I'll have to spend longer next time, when I'm not worrying about hurrying back to stay within my lunch break. I'm really looking forward to trying out new things in Queens this month (and in general). In my research, I found a park that has a free rock wall and ropes course that's open in the summers. I've also always wanted to visit the Queens County Farm, although this weekend they're having an Easter Egg Hunt, so I decided to steer clear. Must save something for next weekend, too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Astorian" April

Now that I'm working from Astoria, I've made a decision that I should re-embrace the original theme of this blog. I know I say this frequently, but knowing how fickle I can be in terms of blog subject matter, I'm really only going to try to restrict my posting about Astoria to a single month. Seems doable. I'm calling is Astorian April. Yep.

Actually, to already dilute my resolve a little, I'm not just going to talk about Astoria, but I am going to try to stick to Queens. For some reason, it always annoys me when New York based publications (New York Mag, Time Out NY, the Times) only ever report on Brooklyn and Manhattan restaurants and events. On the one hand, it's cool, because our restaurants and events aren't overrun by New York's hippest, but on the other hand, I feel like this borough's awesomeness and diversity gets overlooked. But the thing is, I do it myself. I hardly ever venture out of Astoria into other neighborhoods of Queens. Whenever I do, lately mostly for Make-a-Wish interviews, I always happen on cool looking places that I make a mental note to check out later. Only I never do check them out. Instead, I read New York Magazine and Time Out New York or talk to friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan about what to do on the weekend and inevitably find myself on the N train crossing a river. But no longer! Well, for April anyway.

To kick off the now clearly mislabeled Astorian April. I'm featuring some shots of Astoria in spring. During the hour I used to spend commuting, I've now taken to going for runs in the morning in Astoria Park. It's nice because the weather has been so nice, and it forces me to make sure I get out of the house at least once before lunchtime. On Sunday, instead of running, I brought a camera (and a photographer) with me to capture a couple of shots of spring in Astoria Park.

These particular tulips are growing in front of a war memorial at the edge of the park. There is a sign saying it's intended to be a quiet and meditative area, but on the other side of it is the public pool (yes, Astoria Park, has an Olympic sized pool!) where hundreds of kids go every summer. So I guess it's only a meditative zone outside of July and August.

Every single day it has been sunny and lovely except the day I decide to take pictures. This looks more like autumn than spring, but you'll just have to overlook the dreariness.


Further evidence of spring.
Does anyone know what these are? The flowers remind me of poppies but the foliage is different.

So as you can see, it's quite lovely-like in Astoria. Luckily, my readership isn't so high that I have to worry about too many people coming here.