Editor's Note: Today's post is inspired by New York magazine's "My First New York."
I moved to New York exactly three years ago. I didn't really have a plan when I moved here. I asked my then-girlfriend if I could stay with her until I found my own place and a job, then bought a one-way ticket and packed anything I could fit into two large suitcases and my carry-on backpack. I would've brought more stuff, but I didn't want to pay the surcharge for extra checked-in luggage.
I shacked up in her Astoria studio for about six weeks. I'm really glad I did, otherwise I probably never would've liked or visited Queens. I was only temping at the time, so I got to experience the neighborhood during the weekdays.
The main thoroughfare is Ditmars Boulevard, which is lined with everything you could ever need -- restaurants, cafes, bakeries, groceries, butchers, convenience stores, bars, flower shops, etc. It seemed like an endless stream of old Greek women pushed shopping carts along Ditmars, and the old Greek men just sat at outdoor tables drinking coffee and smoking all day, seemingly without a care in the world. There was something charming about the scene.
The only issue I had with Astoria is that it was a bitch to get back from the city after a late night out. During my six-week stay, the girlfriend happened to be out of town a couple weekends. I'd meet up with friends in the city and attempt to return to Astoria by myself. But I didn't have much money back then, so I'd be bombed and try to get back via the subway. Worst. Decision. Ever...Twice.
The wait alone is a test of wills. It's amazing how many Q and R trains run late at night, but for some reason N trains seems to be nonexistent. Once you get on the train you're surrounded by a few other budget-conscious folks, but also, some homeless guys wrapped in layers of clothing from the winter. Even though it's getting warmer, they still hang onto their gear because they need it for the next cold spell. It's nasty because they sweat through it all day, and the stench just overpowers the subway car. Definitely not good for the olfactory senses.
One of the times, I ended up hopping on the wrong train, temporarily passing out and getting off at the wrong station. I surfaced only to find myself at an unfamiliar part of the city. I stumbled around for a few minutes trying to figure out where I was and whether I could just hop back on the train. But I ultimately decided to hail a cab because I was still new and didn't have an inkling as to where I was or have any idea about how I'd even find the right train. It made for a great adventure.
I live in the city now, and there's about a 0.7% chance of me ever moving to one of the other boroughs. But first experiencing New York from Astoria was fun and taught me a very important lesson -- when it's 3am and you're drunk, just spend the money on a cab.