i was traveling though new york city in order to go to a leadership training for folks working with non-profits. i figured i might mix a little business with pleasure, and decided to do some exploring on my way two and from the airport. i was flying into laguardia, located in the borough of queens. queens may be the most underrated of the boroughs, and with all the really affordable locations in brooklyn that are easily accessible to manhattan pretty much picked over, i expect to see queens over run by hipsters before you know it. enjoy it now while you still can.
on my way into town i hit up flushing – a simple ride to the end of the line of the 7 train, and rumored to be the largest growing chinese community in the united states. getting out of the subway station and climbing up the stars, i was quickly surrounded by signs full of chinese characters, quickly moving crowds speaking languages completely indecipherable to me. all around were noodle shops and dumpling shops which taunted me, but the wine and brisket from the previous nights passover seder left me with a little bit of an upset stomach. i decide it was best just to take it all in visually.
poking though the shops i was amazed by the variety of fresh ingredients, and the volume being sold. vegetables that i had never seen before or only read about where in high supply and stacked in artful displays.
the vegetables weren’t the only area that left me inspired, seafood was also visually stunning.
out on the street vendors hawked the usual cheap wears, but the folks that seemed to have the most presence were the folks with this table –
i suppose it should not surprise me that many of those that have left china would also be opposed to the communist party. i was a little unclear as to the aims of this group. where they trying to get support to stop the communist party in china? or my prefered idea that they were some sort of self-help group for those leaving the communist party and needed help learning how to be a good capitalist, offering classes on being self-absorbed, and how to define ones self worth by the things you own.
on the way out of town, i stopped in jackson heights, also in queens. i’m a little embarrassed to admit that my very limited knowledge of queens and specify jackson heights has largely been informed by viewing the movie “coming to america” which is set in queens.
while flushing seemed to be a decidedly chinese, jackson heights seemed like the ultimate mash-up of cultures. walking though the neighborhoods, i saw signs for sri lanka, bhutanese, tibetan, bengali, pakistani, indian, mexican, columbian, peruvian and ecuadorian foods. people talked in all kinds of languages and dialects. flyers for all sorts of topics were shoved in my hands, and i was shouted at for all kinds of services. i have no idea of what was being offered, neither flyers nor words were in my native tongue. even if most of it was indecipherable
to me, i still took great joy in poking about the markets, street stalls, and restaurant windows. you can learn a lot just by observing.
walking along i was very excited about the listing of cuitlacoche or corn smut. i’ve usually seen it listed spelled with an h as in huitalacoche, but the translation made it clear that this was what i was looking for. i ordered one – but unfortunately they were out. my quest for corn smut goes unfulfilled.
queens might be my new favorite borough, plenty of other neighborhoods are left unexplored, i’m looking forward to my next trip.