A. January 31
1. 87th Avenue & Eldert Lane
After an hour of dealing with the intricacies of weekend J train service interruptions, missed connections, and old subway stations (I’d love to see the J platforms at Chambers Street get a deep cleaning and some new mosaics to take advantage of those high high high ceilings), Sean, Maria, and I caught the J train, crossing the East River into Brooklyn so Maria could be properly introduced to the outer boroughs. I ranted briefly on gentrification, though Maria reined me in so we could look out the windows at what promised to be a beautiful Saturday.
I used to ride the J when my family lived in Woodhaven, and the ride seemed a lot longer to me when I was in middle school and would use the trip to catch up on my history reading. The turn after the Norwood Avenue stop brought us into my old neighborhood — rowhouses covered in aluminum siding and dotted with DirecTV dishes. Tiny backyards separated from each other by chain-link fences and snow. People finally shoveling their cars out from underneath a foot of snow made hard by the drop in temperature. We got off the train at the Eldert Lane stop and, as we walked to my old house at number 36, I told Sean and Maria about some of the highlights of my time in Woodhaven, such as the time my dad got shot with a bb gun, or the summer that a zodiac-inspired serial killer murdered somebody on the very street where we stood.
We jogged the rest of the way to my old house, which looked exactly the same — semi-detached, two-story house with brick porch, two car garage. The driveway was full of cars with Mexico bumper stickers, a conversion van with a flag in the back window. A man stood on the porch of the house next door and talked on a cordless phone while I led my friends down the street, past the old house of Erik the cute Lithuanian boy, to Etna, then west on Etna to Nichols so we could stop at the bodega and get some snacks. Further down Nichols to Ridgewood so I could stop and consider the school I attended before I “moved up” into the fine fine superfine educational environment at Brearley.
Abraham Lincoln School — Public School 7, Intermediate School 171. Site of countless dance festivals, talent shows featuring fourth graders doing their trampy best at lip-synching JJ Fad’s “Supersonic” and overserious, overweight sixth graders performing interpretive dance routines to “Black Butterfly”, standardized tests which determined that all but a few of us were not meeting anybody’s standards, and Halloween terrorizing from kids from the nearby high school. Circling back to Eldert Lane, I took one last picture of the house and we walked along Jamaica Avenue — past the Lane Pizzeria where I used to get my zeppoles and Lewis’ of Woodhaven which has played “I Want Your Sex” in Muzak — until we got too tired and too cold and hopped back the train to meet Kim and Dave in Forest Hills.
2. Overhill Road
I was starving, Maria needed caffeine, as did Sean. We stopped at the Starbucks on 71st Avenue for drinks before meeting up with Kim and Dave at Kim’s dad’s house in the Gardens (read http://www.queensnewyork.com/forest/hills.html for a history of the area). After the cute blonde girl at the counter told Maria that she had the best smile she’d seen all day (which boosted Maria’s spirits considerably), we walked through the Gardens to Kim’s dad’s abode. I talked about trick-or-treating as a high schooler while Sean and Maria marveled at the architecture. The Gardens is? are? my favorite neighborhood in Queens. Ideally, I’d like to retire to a little townhouse in the Gardens and be a dotty spinster with a mob of tiny yappy dogs to keep me company. Until then, I will just wander around its cobble-stone streets and remember sledding and the cool video store and buying my first packs of cigarettes at the ‘Te Amo’ smoke shop on 71st & Austin.
We hung out at the house long enough to sit in my old room (formerly Kim’s older sister’s room, then the bedroom I shared with my older sister when we lived there, now the ‘Media Center’ where Kim’s father downloads mp3’s on his dial-up connection) and look at the last of Kim’s parakeets who had a humungous tumor on his chest but looked perfectly well. We then drove to Eddie’s Sweet Shop (stopping first at the pizzeria so I could eat a quick lunch) for sundaes with marshmallow sauce. Maria had an egg cream, as she had never had one before. I think she liked it.
3. 8th Avenue and 2nd Street
Kim and Dave drove us to Brooklyn so we could hang at Sean and Michelle’s before Nick and Nadine’s party (I told you, I hang out with a lot of couples). WE took the long way, driving along Eastern Parkway and admiring all the turn-of-the century buildings as we made our way through Brooklyn to the gentility of Park Slope. Quick stop at Kim and Dave’s to use the bathroom, visit with their dog Rudy, and admire the lovely brownstone where Kim and Dave live — the restored woodwork, the lovely rugs, the clever pocket doors and houseplants in Kim and Dave’s apartment. Rudy would nip at our ankles, and was utterly adorable when doing so (http://www.evite.com/viewPict?pictID=VZJMXKGZETGJHSRJPINY). I was sad to leave them, but we had to get going so we could help Michelle shop for groceries.
4. Warren Street near 5th Avenue
I was exhausted by the time we got to Sean and Michelle’s, but we could only sit for a few minutes before we hit the food stores so we could buy ingredients for cheesecake, bread, cheese, mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto (yeah, that would be me who bought this), and delicious wine. Key Foods was full of people buying food for Super Bowl parties the next day. Across the street, party girls bought Alize while I stood, an utter blank in front of the wine. I know nothing about wine, so I made Maria pick something for me to bring. We brought our haul back to the apartment, where Michelle baked while we sat and rested after a long day spent walking around in the snow. We watched ‘Angel’, made fun of Freddy the fat cat, and napped a bit until we walked to Nick and Nadine’s for dinner.
5. Wyckoff Place
Mango living room. The walls were orange, and lined with bookcases and hung with film posters. The next room was their bedroom, painted white, and their kitchen, painted blue and full of food and more friends. The evening was a blur of gnocchi and beer (Nick and Nadine’s houseguest, Mike, had bought forty bottles of assorted beer from the corner store and was tasting each kind) and gossip and smoke. Lots of U of C people, so of course we all talked about grad school: who had gone, who was still in grad school, and who should be going very soon. We listened to an mp3 of Orson Welles criticizing the copy he had to read in a frozen peas commercial (http://www.otisfodder.com/365days/03-1.html), and had a very nice time. Occasionally a lament over the lack of eligible single straight girls reached my ears, and I pretended not to be offended. In the cab home, Maria complimented me on my friends, and was very happy to have reacquainted herself with so many fine people. So now Maria has people to Brooklyn to hang out with, and that is a good thing. Especially since we didn’t even get around to going to Junior’s for cheesecake.
B. February 1
6. 112th and Broadway
Maria and I got up for a late breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant, where I tried to pay but could not as I had no cash and they do not accept credit cards. Afterwards, we walked through the Cathedral of St. John The Divine, which was beautiful and quiet and very busy. Volunteers buzzed about, a meeting took place in one of the small chapels, and trinkets were being sold at a brisk pace in the gift shop. After walking back to Maria’s, I took the train out to see my parents in Queens, which took two whole freaking hours. Damn.
7. 122nd Avenue & College Point Boulevard
Mom’s home. Dad is not. Patrick’s at school. Justin’s working on his web site (www.anticlimber.com). Jackie’s at the mall. Watch the Super Bowl, where Janet Jackson’s breast does not faze me one bit. I was more interested in the commercials, actually. That, and where we’d go for dinner when my dad got home.
We piled into the new-ish van, then drove around until we end up at an Applebee’s in Fresh Meadows. Why the Applebee’s, I don’t know, though it appeared that my parents really liked the shrimp. Justin had some other type of meat, and would occasionally grunt when he wanted the steak sauce. The Patriots won, much to the disapointment of the people at Applebee’s. I didn’t care so much, though my did did win some money in his Super Bowl pool. Go, Dad.
My favorite part of the visit with my parents? My dad driving back to Maria’s over the Tri-Borough Bridge, zooming along and the three of us (my mom was in the back) singing Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy”. My least favorite bit was my dad squeezing my arm as he hugged me goodbye and telling me to lose some weight. Which is a point well-taken, but still a bummer.
C. February 2
8. Continental Airlines Flight 1127
I changed my seat when I checked in so I could sit in an exit row and stretch out my legs. I spent most of the flight reading “Wicked” and ogling the boy in 8A. My Filipino love powers were not enough to make him turn around so I could make out with him and try on his glasses. I blamed it on the girl sitting in his row, two seats away, saing that if she hadn’t been there I would have slunk up to sit next to him. But I think you know me well enough by now to know that is just a big honking lie. When the plane landed and we got off, I had him in sight until baggage check, where he disappeared into the crowd and I retrieved my checked luggage and I went home, on the el, alone.
9. Postscript – February 8
As Andrew said last night at dinner, I talk a good game. I join a gym, but I never go. I sit in your passenger seats but never get my license and take the wheel. I post profiles through on-line dating services but I never write anybody make the first move and write somebody. Or go out and meet people in bars, at the movies, at the supermarket. I see cute boys on planes, riding buses, driving automobiles and I let them go. Jorge once told me to look up for the cute tall ones, and Stef’s advice to look in the mirror everyday and tell my reflection how hot I am sits, filed but unexecuted, in the part of my brain whose idea of a bang-up time is Lifetime Television and a hot pocket.
Times change and so must I. Plans and wheels are in motion. With my birthday approaching a new era comes. Not unlike the Year of the Monkey, the Year of the Jasmine will be full of exciting new things like boys and bridesmaid dresses, cars and cake, and music and movies and massages and manicures and the gym and writing stuff so entertaining I could convince people to pay me money to read it. Sound good?
Yeah. I thought so, too.
10. Jasmine’s Trip Index
Cost of 7-day Metrocard: $21
Total time spent on New Jersey Transit: 1.5 hours
Total number of free admissions to Metropolitan Museum of Art: 3
Total friends/family missed: 2 (Andrew Y., Joseline)
Total stories, Brearley School, 2004: 12
Total stories, Brearley School, 1994: 10
Odds I’ll be back in May for my 10-year reunion: 1 to 8
Odds I’ll spend reunion eating ice cream and watching ‘Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion’: 2 to 1
Cans of ginger ale consumed on Continenal flights by me: 3
Breasts flashed by Janet Jackson during Super Bowl XXXVIII: 1
Projected figure for Super Bowl XXXIX: 2
“If you like them tall, girl, look up!”
Janet Jackson – Control; Tony Bennett – I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face; Blossom Dearie – I’ll Take Manhattan