How it all works.

I'm trolling New York City collecting maps from flyers, government reports, informational brochures and such with the notion that all these maps will all somehow join together to create a complete map of NYC. The maps have to exist in real life- no downloads and cannot be rescaled or cut to fit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

College Point, Queens

North of Downtown Flushing then, isolated from civilized society by a big motorway, an industrial estate and the sea is College Point. College Point has the feel of a Northern Irish town, to me. I’m not sure any more what I meant by that when I wrote it down. Maybe walking through the sad industrial park in the rain was reminiscent of a time I walked through a similar Northern Irish industrial park. Maybe because it is a busy and introspective little residential town built around and divided by the only main road, in the rain. Maybe it was the truck drivers cheerfully abusing other truck drivers’ double parked trucks, in a fashion I did see in Northern Ireland, as they inched along the narrow road. I don’t remember. It might have been the rain, which was an on again off again moderate drizzle as I remember- very Northern Irish.

A Fancy House
Before I went to visit College Point, I read in the Wikipedia that it was a working class neighborhood. I disagree with this assessment. While small areas of shabby housing suggested that some of it is working class I encountered a good many more substantial and well kept houses suggestive of the middle class. Also, it was here that I got my first taste of the detached house sitting on a bit of a garden that would be the staple diet during my journey through much of the rest of Queens. After months of treeless tenements and brownstones or apartment buildings with a token piece of shrubbery set off to the side, I was so taken with the novelty of such a thing as a garden that I took a hundred pictures of them. The houses are not working class, they are fancy class. The more north you go, the fancier it gets.

All the maps I found of College Point were all in a three block stretch of College Point Boulevard which amounts as almost the same thing as only finding one map. ‘Tis the way of all things- feast or famine. I want to tell you about all the great times and all the interesting people I met along the main road there but really only  stands out because I bought some delicious sausage there.

Flushing Bay
There is some great waste ground in College Point. There’s a great view of La Guardia Airport from a piece of waste ground at the end of 15th Ave. There’s a massive piece of waste ground along 20th Ave which used to be an airport. After all the day’s gallivanting I didn’t go in but people do. There’s a nice set of photos here It’s a good place to go birding so I hear.

The only reason non locals would ever go to College Point is for the mighty Spa Castle  , known far and wide for sublime relaxations and restorative activities. They didn’t have a map but they did have a plan which is quite the same thing sometimes.

Powell's Cove
There’s a marina up there too and I walked past nice little seasidey homes to get to it. At the marina they did not have a map of the marina but pinned to the bar door they did have a nice map of the Bronx River I’d been looking for. I took it and ran away imagining that I was about to be chased and ran to ground by yacht owning gardeners, missing their map and fearing for the rest of their property. I hid in a park until I imagined they had gone away, ruining my nice umbrella on a branch in the process. In the park, there’s a bit of a beach with a nice view of the Whitestone Bridge but a lot of dead Horseshoe crabs. A good place to wee.

On the way home I walked past a hideous place called Malba which is distinctive only for the vulgar ostentation of the huge, glittering McMansions that have been built there apparently by people lacking in taste or discretion and completely untethered by any zoning laws or neighborhood covenants.

On the bus back to the 7 train I took a picture of the back of this man's head.
The Back of a Man's Head

Monday, January 16, 2012


If you would permit me to use an analogy for a moment, I would compare New York City to your house, your home. Midtown is the kitchen where the real business of the day is conducted, there’s your ma sitting at the kitchen table paying the bills. Wall St is your Dad sitting on the couch yelling at the TV with a betting slip in his hand. The Upper East Side a far off room where your very elderly Granny sits dozing in the window. The Lower East Side a teenager’s bedroom filled with rock posters and semen stains. Park Slope where your older sister sits and pouts all day long wishing she wasn’t surrounded by such worthless peasants and along a little path from the kitchen, at the bottom of the garden is a little potting shed where your dad’s older brother Tony sits fiddling with an old valve radio in his comfortable cardigan and talks about the Korean War. This is Maspeth, Queens.
It is the 1950’s in Maspeth, Queens. The streets are clean and tidy, the modest houses, families, shops and restaurants are clean and tidy, the bank manager knows your name, the flag is flying, no one is going to steal your bike and if it was they’d know who took it, Italian food is food and Chinese food is ethnic food. It is a fine, fine place.

I’ve been slandering Maspeth for years now, like every other self-respecting Brooklyner, without ever having visited the place. Actually I was there for a while; you see, several summers ago I ran around with a crazy ex-ballerina in her very early 20’s. Contrary to the popular saying I aged about 5 years during the 6 week fling. It was the summer of the blonde ballerina and also the summer of gin. My roommates and I would go through 3 bottles of Gordon’s a week. The ballerina introduced me to snorting pharmaceuticals which disagreed with me and we’d sit in her spartan kitchen melting in the heat, swatting away the flies, completely at loss for anything to say to one another. We’d walk to the first bar in Williamsburg and she would try to make friends with the junk yard dogs she met along the way. In an attempt, I suppose, to make myself seem as young, vital and crazy as she I hurled the tops of fire hydrants down the road and we’d watch the sparks fly before they’d smash to a stop against a store front or a car wheel. We watched Gummo together and it reminded me of the crazy stories she told me about the fucked up things she used to do with her friends upstate, the friends that wanted to come downstate to kick my ass for going out with their friend who was much too young for me.

I sat and thought that when I was her age I had just moved to Belfast and was chugging 3 litre bottles of Wild and White with Gordy and Ciaran Kennedy, I had not yet met the civilizing influences of Deirdre or Clive and since that time had completed Art College, bummed around Belfast for a few years, moved to Colorado for six years, got married, moved to New York, got separated and I had done all this spartan kitchen thing before and couldn’t really face all those hangovers again. Well I knew all that but it was exciting anyway and much of it was a lot of fun. And as I sat there so tired, so, so tired in the miserable heat in the shabby outskirts of Maspeth with nothing around to eat but bad pizza and Chinese food I could hardly disagree with the general consensus that Maspeth was a shit hole. If I’d just walked around a little bit more I would have seen the cute, varied little neighborhood, untouched by modern development (except sadly riven in twain by the Long Island Expressway) and the lucky people who live there, the cemeteries, the disused railroad lines and old factories. Except for that one corner of Flushing and Metropolitan which will always be Gummo.