There was a brief lull during this terrible, terrible winter when the temperature rose above the mid thirties, well into the mid forties and promised to stay that way until sundown wherein it would rapidly plummet to somewhere in the teens bringing with it atrocious, bitter winds. It was in the face of such a forecast that I set off on my ill advised trip to complete Astoria.
The afternoon was pleasant as I detrained at Ditmars and I quickly picked up a bevy of maps of the junction between 31st St and the Triborough Bridge. It is a well mapped place. Earlier that week I had trolled the Northern reaches of Astoria for naught but the exercise- all of Ditmars, Steinway, Rikers Island and a bit of East Elmhurst and nothing. Rikers Island is a big prison complex so I’m not really surprised they didn’t want to give me a map, but the rest of them? Bastards.
As I trudged along the still snow covered sidewalk of Astoria Blvd the temperature quite perceptively began to plunge. The filthy puddles of melted snow so recently created through the balmy afternoon began to skin over with ice. The wind took my breath away and I zipped my hood up like Kenny McCormack to keep out the cold. I could hardly hold my list of addresses for the cold but a noble voice from within urged me forward, would mere cold keep me from mapping Queens entire by the year’s end? Nonsense! Forward!
By a seemingly senseless quirk of my route planning process, of which I shall explain in due course, I rarely know en route where it is I am going or what it is I am looking for. So it was as I found myself still walking down Astoria long after the commercial and residential aspects of the road had abruptly ended and the four lane highway began. As the cars and trucks blasted past me I bleakly beheld what surely was my intended destination. There on the right lay a snowy, forsaken graveyard penned in between highways and no entrance in sight. Cursing the day I was born I skirted the fence until I found an entrance several hundred yards further along. Past rubble and building sites, past the grave stones of dead Germans and Italians, the wind still bitterly blowing and the temperature dropping further I walked towards the US flag atop a pole sensing graveyard attendants gather under the colors. I was right and I collected my prize- a map of St Michael’s cemetery- beautiful but unfortunately too big to use.
After pissing and uttering some gibberish to the kind ladies in the office I took my leave whereupon, almost immediately, I got lost among the winding paths and German and Italian gravestones. After several minutes of wandering I was about to turn back to the kind ladies when I met with the most extraordinary vision. Standing right there in front of me, blocking my way, even, was the most enormous white cockerel sporting a quite blood red head. I stopped dead in my tracks astonished beyond all telling and attempted to ascertain the amount of danger I may be in. The cockerel moved not one inch during this time except for a beady yellow eye so I decided somewhat reluctantly that I could pass the creature without incident. Possessed now with calm sobriety I saw that the creature was not enormous as I had feared put merely standing there in the tundra with its feathers puffed up for warmth but why it should pick such a bleak and windy spot was beyond my reckoning and as I was eager to leave such a place, beyond my patience. I took the vision of the cockerel with the blood red head as some kind of portent and decided to forego the rest of my damned list of addresses and make directly for home and with my hackles raised did just that.
Some time has passed since my meeting with the cock and my thoughts do turn to it from time to time. Could it be that a cockerel lives wild here in New York City, albeit not a very fashionable part of the city? Or was the creature a figment of my imagination, brought on by the intense cold? Was its presence for good or evil or was it a neutral force in a world existing for its own benefit only and amusing itself by lurking eerily to frighten passers by. I suspect a simple phone call to those very nice ladies who so kindly helped me with the map would clear up most of these questions but in God’s name where would the fun be in that?