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Dear NYC Subway Riders:

Hi friends.  You may recognize me as the girl you hip-checked to get by me up the stairs the other day.  It’s okay–you only weighed about 75 lbs more than me, and I’m sure you were in a huge rush to get somewhere extremely important–much more important than anywhere I was headed, or even my personal well-being.  My bruise is fading already, thanks.  I just wanted to voice my opinions on some of your behaviors whilst riding on our glorious public transport system, because I’m not quite sure you realize how you act (I mean if you did, I don’t think you’d act this way.  It’s that bad.)

1. Personal Space.  I like it.  You, as a human, like it too (I assume.  Maybe not?).  So why do you insist on getting all up in my personal bubble when the train is not even full?  Just listen to the nice conductor man and MOVE. INTO. THE CAR.  See all that space down there?  You can have it!  There is no need for your hand to be touching my hand on the pole, and I don’t need to be that well-acquainted with your crotch as you hover over me as I sit.  The intoxicating scent you bathed in this morning–is that Axe, or eau de amateur stripper I smell?–is making me want to vomit, as is the fact that your HAIR is touching me.  Hair is gross when it’s not your own, people!  Now get away from me, or I’ll start fake-coughing on you.  Wouldn’t be the first time.  (Note: I understand this sardine mentality when the train is really full.  That’s acceptable, as long as you pretend you aren’t actually pressed up against me like a 14 yr old at a school dance and avoid eye-contact at all costs.  It’s when there is ample room that I start to take offense to your proximity.  Now shoo.).

2. General Politeness. Did you all miss kindergarten?  Were you raised by proverbial wolves? I mean really, how hard is it. Don’t push and shove.  I know it’s remarkable, but there will be other trains after this one.  And you’d be amazed at what a simple “excuse me” can do.   Don’t glare like you want to murder every other passenger.  Whatever the problem is, it’s not our fault.  Don’t take up 3 seats with your bags/giant obese ass. And for God’s sake, let that poor pregnant lady sit down.  Same goes for the old guy, anyone with uses aid to walk, or people with missing limbs.  I am not kidding–I have seen a ONE-LEGGED guy get on the subway and no one moved an inch.  Except me, because I have a heart (and perfect manners).  The subway really makes me question human decency.

3. Volume Level. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to listen to that awful, tinny sound of super-mega house trance techno music seeping out of your headphones, good sir next to me.  It’s really does the trick for pushing my might-be-a-headache to a full blown migrane.  And you, who loves that jam SO MUCH that you have to listen to it aloud on whatever little device you have there, thanks also!  Everyone else in the car really loves that your sharing.  And by all means, please, keep singing along.  I might be watching the next Jay-Z in the making.  And finally, to the lady who has been screaming on her cell-phone since the moment we came above ground, I really was wondering why Joey left that nice girl for that slutty hooch who is Mike’s baby-mamma.  Thanks for the update.

4. Eating on the Train. Especially, and I think this goes without saying, super stinky food.  We are in a non-ventillated environment here, guys.  Can we finish the street-meat before entering the subway? Also, sometimes the way people eat is unbelievably disgusting.

5. Homeless People. True, this isn’t a behavior per-se, but I figured this special sub-set of subway riders deserves a special shout out, cause they really are the icing on the gross, germ-infested, smelly cake that is the MTA.  Look, I’m sure being homeless sucks, and if I was (which, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be…because I don’t understand how that happens), I’m sure the subway would be my first choice for new digs, but…ew.  You smell like a well-worn tennis shoe covered in pee AND poop, I can practically see the lice crawling all over you, and you make everyone stay as far away from you as possible, which leads to the “homeless guy on one end of the car all alone, 100 regular ppl on the other end crushed together” scenario that really irks me.

6. Tourists. See above re: non-behavior but extremely irritating sub-set.  I know NYC is a really amazing place.  I know that it’s exciting to be in the big-city after living in East Tumbleweed, Arkansas all your life, and the buildings are tall and shiny and it’s so noisy and big and OMG TIMES SQUARE, but come on.  People actually live here, and said people really don’t want to sit on the subway and listen to you yell out every stop on the board (“THE NEXT STOP IS, CANAL STREET!!! ISN’T IT FUNNY THAT I ALREADY MEMORIZED THOSE ANNOUNCEMENTS? OH MY GOOD GOLLY GOSH!”).  They don’t want to be delayed as you hold the door open waiting for cousin Jimmy who can’t figure out the turnstile. And they don’t want to watch you conduct a personal photo-shoot of your first time on the NYC subway system.  Please, take a cab.  You’re on vacation.  Splurge.

Look, I know I’m not the queen of subway etiquette.  Sometimes I take up more than 1 seat with  my bag, sometimes I listen to music on my headphones too loud.  I know I’m not perfect.  However. I would argue that I am a hell of a lot better behaved than maybe 86.7% of subway riders.  Let’s not forget the 1-legged guy.  And who got up for him.

Let’s just try to do better, kay?  Can we try that?  Or is that too much for you to handle, my fellow riders?  I have a feeling your going to go with yes.

Your Fellow Subway Warrior,

Mary “Don’t-EVER-make-eye-contact-on-the-train” Wood

PS- Hey MTA, don’t think I forgot about you. I know a lot has been said against you, MTA, and I don’t want to be one more voice in a chorus of millions.  I really want to like you, because you do make it a lot easier for me to travel around this big city.  But you just make it so hard for me to like you.  Because you really are terrible.  The fare raises, okay, I can handle that.  But the constant delays, the breakdowns, the track changes, and the incompetence of your workers for not letting us, the riders, know about these things, is really just awful.  And, to top it all off, today I read that you had the nerve to go and cancel my ENTIRE. SUBWAY. LINE.  So now, instead of plopping myself down on a W train in Astoria and sittin’ pretty until Prince Street (where I works so I can pay for my $80 monthly pass for you), I have to disrupt my journey and hang around Union Sq until an R train rumbles in to take me the rest of the way downtown.  Thanks. A. lot.

PPS – for those of you who don’t have the distinct pleasure of riding the subway every day and think I might be over-reacting, Exhibit A:

http://www.subwaydouchery.com/

Go. Laugh. Be Enlightened.  I LIVE this.

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Dinner for One

I bet you weren’t expecting ANOTHER recipe post so quick, were you?  Well I wasn’t going to…but this experiment turned out so well that I had to share.

So the BF travels quite a bit for business, which leaves little me alone more than I like.  Actually, I hate it.  A lot.  I’m a huge chicken and I tend to obsess about potential terrible things happening, so you can imagine how unhappy I am when Harold leaves for his jaunts to Washington DC or Baltimore. I leave the bathroom light on all night like a 4 yr old, hear weird scary noises that clearly indicate someone is trying to break into our apt and kill me, and, with my personal furnace gone, freeze to death under the covers.

The one plus, if you can call it that, is that I get to try out recipes that I’m unsure about–this way, if they suck (and oh do they often suck) than I don’t have to a) watch Harold choke down a gross meal pretending to like it and b) embarrass myself in front of him, which yes, I still care about doing.

Monday night we did our standard post-gym grocery store visit.  This almost always entails me wandering amongst the produce while the clock tick downs to closing time as my loving and patient Harold tries not to flip out about said wandering.  I attempt to make lists but I only end up actually using them like 45% of the time. Last week H almost killed me as I wasted precious minutes reading aloud every variety of canned bean on the shelf. Pinto…white…navy…kidney…I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

Grocery-store efficiency is not my strong suit.

So it’s no surprise that our groceries usually have a few random items thrown in.  This week it was Escarole.

According to Wikipedia:

Escarole, or broad-leaved endive (var latifolia) has broad, pale green leaves and is less bitter than the other varieties. Varieties or names include broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, grumolo, scarola, and scarole

It looks like a smaller lettuce, basically.  And, more importantly, it was on sale for $1.29. Jackpot!

So as the BF enjoyed a redic restaurant dinner on his company’s dime, I concocted the following:

Escarole & Acorn Squash Pasta

1 Acorn Squash (or any winter squash)

1 head of Escarole, well washed (mine was VERY sandy, ick)

1/2 a box of Pasta

S&P

Butter (a couple of pats)

1 Egg (optional, see note below)

Cheese of your liking (I used Ricotta Salata, which is a salty, denser version of ricotta.  I briefly considered goat cheese, too), about 1 cup, shredded/crumbled.

Recipe:

– Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

– Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds, season with S&P and a little butter

– Place squash halves face down on cookie sheet covered w/tin foil (easy clean-up, yay!) and roast for 40-45 mins, or until soft.

– While squash is roasting, boil pasta.

– Drain pasta, leaving some liquid in the pot (you’ll use this to wilt the escarole)

– Roughly chop escarole, add to pasta water (the water should be at a strong simmer), cover.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until just wilted.

– Remove from heat, add pasta back to pot with the now-wilted escarole

– Add cheese and toss to evenly coat.  The cooking liquid should melt the cheese and make a yummy little sauce.

(Note: I had some lag time between finishing the pasta and escarole and having the squash fully cooked.  So I poached an egg to put on top.  Totally optional but amazing. The runny yoke took everything to a whole new level.)

– Once squash is done, scoop flesh from skin and add chunks to pasta/escarole mix.

– S&P to taste.  Enjoy!


I know it’s not a Rachel-Ray 30 min meal, but it’s relatively healthy (um, minus the cheese) and it. is. so. good.

Escarole & Acorn Squash Pasta

See how the squash gets all roasty and caramel-y?  This picture doesn’t even do it justice.  I do not know how to take food photos.

While the oven was hot I decided to make some pita chips too.  One awesome thing about Astoria is that you can buy pita that is made (ready?) IN ASTORIA.  I think that’s just charming.

Queens represent

So I cut them into bite-sized pieces, drizzled them with olive oil and S&P, and baked them for 10 mins or so.  Easy, yummy, and way better for my wallet than buying those ridiculously expensive bagged pita chips in the store.  Win!

They came out a little well-done, but that’s what I get for making pita chips while watching my true love, Casey James, croon to America.  And while we are in the American Idol vein, Miley Cyrus: lose the gross fake eyelashes.  Seriously.  You are not a drag queen.

Chippys!

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Person: “So, where do you live?”

Me: “Oh, I actually moved to Astoria last summer.” (Note: I always specify ASTORIA, because saying just “queens” makes people run away in horror.)

Person: (fake smiling) “Oh! Really! Well, that’s…..(searches for something they can say nice about Queens) (fails)…”I heard that’s a really up-and-coming area!”

Me: Yeah, it’s actually a pretty cool neighborhood. Good restaurants and bars and stuff. And cheap.

Person: Right! And I mean, you’ll get to Manhattan eventually, I’m sure (at this point said person might as well condescendingly pat me on the head. Poor, poor girl, who doesn’t live in Manhattan.)

My Carrie-Bradshaw-I-ain’t comment from last post got me thinking…about Manhattan. The infamous, the legendary.  And, also, my position NOT on said magical island.

Here’s the thing. I “live in the city,” but I don’t really live IN the city. I live in Queens. See the subtle difference? No? You must not be from NYC then, cause jeez is there a difference.

The outer-boroughs are, geographically, cartographically (is that a word?), and politically speaking, part of New York City. But each has their own unique reputation. Staten Island: guido. Bronx: scary. Brooklyn: hipsters. And Queens…well, Queens is sort of the red-headed stepchild of NYC. No one really likes it, but no one is really sure why. It’s sort of a ‘eww, queens…’ kind of reaction. Yup, that’s my hood.

People I know talk about Queens like it’s a mysterious, far-off, desolate land. “Oh, wow QUEENS! Isn’t it hard to get out there? Yeah I don’t think I can go ALL THE WAY out to Queens. Do subways even go that far?”

(Meanwhile it is 15 minutes to 59th Street from my doorstep.)

Those of us who live in the Outer-B’s and those who do not (that is, those who live in Manhattan) are, I think, pretty different sort of folk. Let’s look:

Manhattan: Cabs. All the time, even when unnecessary. Subways are icky.

Outer-B’s: Subways. Cause how else are we going to get home without spending 20 bucks? Also, cabbies sometimes laugh at you for daring to suggest they squire you anywhere except Manhattan.

Manhattan: 500 sq. ft. studio for $2600 a month, in a doorman building, subsidized by loving and generous parents.

Outer-B’s: Loving and generous parents will not pay for your broke ass anymore, is that a joke or something?

Manhattan: chic sushi restaurants with waiters/waitresses who are models ‘as their real jobs’ and portions smaller than a credit card. Bon appetit.

Outer-B’s: The most bizarre, how-is-this-really-food Ethnic restaurants with no menus and questionable cleanliness standard. Lamb brain, anyone?

Manhattan: Starbucks, with snotty baristas and hard to decipher lingo.

Outer-B’s: Dunkin Donuts complete with full staff of overly friendly women who call you “honey” and never get your coffee order right.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I don’t want this to come off the wrong way. I like Manhattan and I don’t really think it’s full of a-hole sissies. And Queens–well, Astoria at least–is actually quite nice and pleasantly quirky in it’s own little way.  I like living here, I really do.  I mean, we have a 19th century beer garden! We have cool Greek food! Also, I’ve heard tales of a Target in Forest Hills and ridiculous Asian food in Flushing. But from what I’ve heard and read, it seems like Queens residents are super defensive, almost too defensive.

“So, you live in Queens?”

“YES. It’s really not so bad. It’s totally way awesomer than Manhattan, if that’s what you’re asking. I love it so much. SO. MUCH.”

I’ve done it–um hi, I’m doing it right now (the bars! the bakeries! the parks! Manhattan is for suckas!). I’ve seen Harold do it. It’ s like as soon as we signed the lease we got an official outer-borough inferiority complex chip on our shoulders. Why? Here’s my theory:

People who live in the OB’s secretly wish they lived in Manhattan.

There. I’ve blown your (our) cover, outer-boroughians (boroughites?). Sorry, but I really think that’s true. Manhattan is like the pretty older sister. Sophisticated, cool, sort of rude in an OMG-I-wish-I-was-her kind of way. You hate it and love it at the same time. Would I give up my nice duplex in Astoria for a significantly smaller 1 bedroom on the, say, Upper East Side? You bet your heinie I would.

Sure, my theory, like every theory, has its flaws. There are probably people out there who genuinely like living in the outer-boroughs. But I dare you to find me a freshly graduated 20-something with a semi-depressing salary who lives in the far reaches of NYC and doesn’t harbor a small yet niggling desire to move on up to the East Side (or the West side, or Chelsea, or even the Financial District even though it’s a weird corporate wasteland down there).

So I’m stuck. Stuck between really liking Astoria for being Not-Manhattan, and wishing I lived in Manhattan cause, like…it’s Manhattan, people. The land where dreams come true. And where bank accounts go to die.

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