Best Thing Ever: Professional Movers Who Are Professional

Today the movers are here, packing up our stuff. Unlike every other move I’ve made — which has either been done by me and my exhausted family, or some cheaply hired amateur movers — this move is moving along pleasantly.

They arrived on time, packed carefully, made funny jokes, and hustled. Professionals!

All day, Brendan I read magazines and books. Took a long lunch. Felt sorta sleepy.

It’s a tough life, but…

Want Photos of New York in Fall? You Got It

Pagan Man at Botanical Gardens

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of search engine traffic for people searching the words “new york in fall.” OK, people: While fall hasn’t officially kicked in yet here — the trees on my street are all still green — I’ve got plenty of photos of autumn splendor in New York. So here ya go.

And yeah, this stuff is weird. It’s from the New York Botanical Gardens Halloween Parade, which is fantastic (and more crowded each year. I think Dora and I managed to go before it jumped the shark). I’m not sure exactly what these creatures are supposed to be, but I call them “pagan……”

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Astoria Food: Bulgarian Equals Yum

Bulgarian Mixed Meat Dish

Oh, Astoria. You fun little neighborhood, you. Tonight we ventured down the barren strip of land known as 11th Street to Bulgara, a B-F-E restaurant serving delicious food in the middle-of-nowhere NYC. It’s perhaps the best Bulgarian food this side of the Ottoman Empire, or at least the East River. Tonight, Brendan, John, Dora and I were the only patrons at the overtly red-themed restaurant, but the solitude allowed us to giddily and unabashedly enjoy the divine cuisine.

Case in point: John was able to proudly admire his shashlik (basically, pork shish kabob), while sipping on his Melnik (a semi-sweet red vino), without wondering what others would think:

John with Shashlik

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Freaky Bizarre ‘News’: Cockroach Trapped in an Acorn

My favorite lil’ newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, inexplicably published a brief item online about a cockroach with its head trapped in an acorn. There’s a photo, but it’s not that exciting and it’s pretty gross — exactly what you would expect, basically.

The posting immediately made me recall my youth: Stepping into my parents’ garage at night was always a nervous affair — would one fly up at me in the dark (they are fantastic flyers) and land in my hair? Would I have to squish one scurrying across my bedroom floor, and see the green guts splatter all over my orange shag carpet? I remember once trying to chase one with a broom, scared to death it would turn and make an aerial assualt at me. Purely haunting. And inescapable. Man, Texas has some big bugs.

Still, I have no idea why they felt this roach-in-a-nut was news. It’s not. I think they knew it was more like “easy page views,” a term in the online biz that we kindly call “page view whoring.”

Yet, I also have to admit: The mere act of them posting the item led to a lengthy email debate between my husband and me about what people think of when they hear the word “cockroach.” Brendan maintains that the gigantic cockroaches that flourish in South Texas (and sometimes get stuck in acorns) are actually “palmetto bugs” and that when “most people” think of cockroaches, they think of the (much) smaller German cockroach. He can be such a snooty Minnesotan.

I disagree with him, although, admittedly, there is no correct answer when you’re debating people’s perception of the word cockroach. The American cockroach — which, really folks, could the name get more generic? — is the same breed that is sometimes called the “palmetto bug.” I grew up around cockroaches as big as a deck of cards. And so did anyone who grew up in the South – from California to Florida. So, I think I win: There’ s more people living in these states than in German cockroach land, aka the states that stretch from Washington to Maine, including Minnesota.

(and folks, I’m not really serious about this being an important issue to me, but I am curious of what you think of when you think of a cockroach. Gigantic and capable of flying? Or small and incapable of flying?)

The Miles I’ve Walked in Astoria

I’m getting nostalgic again, as I have just taken another long walk through Astoria, and, like always, fought the urge to eat at all the little odd restaurants I walked by, like the unpronounceable place called Djerdan advertising “the best burek in town” (as if there’s stiff competition). I also got yelled at by some construction men on 30th Ave, west of the hospital, for not crossing the street where they were working. (NYC has a law that sidewalks have to be maintained during home building, but, of course, construction laws in Queens were meant to be broken). It’s not a real walk unless you have some sort of run-in with all the ugly new construction going up at a breakneck pace in Astoria.

Astoria has its good points (the food) and its bad points (the ugly new apartment buildings). Yet, it is pretty much the only thing I’ll miss about NYC. It’s really charmed me, over and over, as the most neighborhoodly of neighborhoods in the most diverse county (Queens) in the United States. I told Brendan once “If we hadn’t moved to Astoria, I’m not sure I would have wanted to stay here much longer.”

I ponder often how the population of Astoria — roughly 300,000 peeps — is equal to that of my hometown, Corpus Christi, Texas. But Astoria is crammed into about a 5-mile-wide square space, while Corpus Christi is at least 10 times larger. Like all of NYC, the extreme urban density in Astoria means that you can get all your stuff done in one small block near your apartment. (We have a big grocery store, pharmacy, diner, post office, gas station, etc, all down the street from our house). So, when you finally just let yourself wander around, you’ll find new places, and in Astoria, that usually means new food, too.

I hope I can make it back to the burek place before we leave, but the clock’s ticking pretty fast these days.

Where I’ve been in Astoria (in green). I’ve really only just begun…

Astoria Map of My Walks

Irritating: The Subway Panhandler Who Forces Everyone to Smile

Today I had the pleasure of, again, encountering the Irritating Panhandler Man on my way home on the N train tonight.

“Excuse me, excuse me everyone. I’m a soccer coach — I’m not a drug user! I’m raising funds for the team. Heehee. Some of ya’ll recognize me, I can see it. You know why? Cause this is my favorite train – the N train. N is for Nice, here in Astoria. Right?”

(Awkward pause, as if he’s anticipating applause.)

“Yep, so alright: It’s me! Now, if you don’t want to give me money, all I ask you is give me a smile. That’s right: a smile! I especially love the smiles on the purty faces!”

Then, Irritating Panhandler Man slowly makes his way through the subway car, stopping at each person, demanding that, if they can’t contribute to the soccer team, that they at least give him a big smile.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do well in these situations. Last time, I didn’t smile, I stared. I’d like to think I scared him a little bit, even if he kept urging me to smile. “You got lots of things to be happy for, girl…” he told me, before finally giving up and urging the person next to me to smile.

This time, I got to my stop before he got to my seat, but I still had to come up with several plans of action if he did reach me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my iPod on, so I couldn’t feign ignorance (that’s the reason locals wear iPods on the subway) to his cause. I decided I’d just stare, again, blankly, as if I didn’t speak English, a totally plausible excuse in Astoria. I could pass for Eastern European. Or a Canadian.

But, the train was efficient and beat Irritating Subway Man at his own game. I didn’t have to smile! Or give him money!


(I wish I had a tally of every time someone in NYC asked me for money.)

There Goes My Neighborhood

Astoria, I Adore Ya

NYP — WITH numerous new developments and loft conversions – not to mention a slow but steady influx of new restaurants, bars and residents – Long Island City has generated the lion’s share of buzz about Queens. But just north of that emerging district lies Astoria, an area that’s long attracted a diverse mix of immigrants (Greeks, Italians, Arabs) and, in recent years, a steady stream of Manhattan rent refugees – young professionals drawn in by affordable prices, great restaurants and a quick commute to Midtown.

And now, a new trend is emerging in Astoria: shiny, new condo developments.