Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The failed secrets of Astoria

I was reading an article in Time Out New York the other day about secret places in New York. New York, perhaps because of the crowds that inevitably form around something once the word is out, is a city of people who love secret places. It's the only way I can explain the trend of speakeasies which by virtue of having a hidden entrance or requiring some sort of password can then charge $22 for a cocktail. When I first moved to New York and had season to the opera in the very cheapest of seats, I found what I felt to be a secret place (despite the fact that I found it on Yelp while searching for something affordable for dinner in the vicinity of the Lincoln Center). It was a burger place, a dive with movie posters on the wall, tucked behind a curtain of the Parker Meridian hotel. The only marker of its existence was a small neon burger sign. I had fond memories of the place, but years later when I tried to go back, the neon burger sign was nearly obscured by the long line extending outside of the curtain and around the corner. So I guess the real reason New Yorkers love secrets is because the alternative is waiting in long lines. Or paying $18 for a burger, I guess.

At any rate,  back to the article in question. While I have to question any so-called secret places that are published in a major magazine, there were definitely some things on the list I hadn't heard of (which isn't really saying much, as I'm generally not the first to ferret out the latest thing). The one that particularly caught my eye was at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria. Time Out reported that on the outside of the building, and thus accessible 24-hours a day and without paying museum admission there was a DVD slot. No sign explained what it was, but those in the know should put a blank DVD in the slot, wait 15 minutes, and then be rewarded with a DVD recorded with some sort of digital media done by the artist who created the exhibit. While no sign on site explains the piece, I was able to find corroboration of the Time Out article on the museum's website. All I needed was a beautiful day for a walk to the museum and a blank DVD, and I was ready.

Alas, I'm not posting any avant garde digital media that I retrieved from the DVD because the secret turned out to be well kept because it's kind of a dud (which explained the lack of line around this particular part of the building). Our DVD and backup DVD (both tested and proven to be blank before embarking) were returned to us several times. We finally gave up and considered the walk to be joy enough. They've since added a note on the website letting users know that because this piece involves hardware and is exposed to the elements, it's bound to be broken most of the time. Oh well. I might check it out another time if I ever find myself in that area and with a blank DVD in hand.

The next Astoria secret I'd like to explore is this one.  It's a hidden Victorian house behind a major business block in Astoria. I walk by the secret door it's behind every morning on my way to the gym. Sadly, to explore this secret I would have to masquerade as an interested home buyer. When I first read the article I actually was kind of interested because restoring an old house in a great location seems kind of fun. But then I remember that if I actually had the million and change it would take to do that, I'd probably rather have a house where I wouldn't look out my front window into the back alley of a bunch of businesses. So until then, I'll have to keep looking for my own secret Astoria places. And then I'll publish them here, so there can finally be some real advantages for my readership. Or really just for my readership who lives in Astoria...

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