This time last year I was walking around Bushwick, where I had lived for the previous 5 years, working on the Lower East Side and didn’t even know I was pregnant. Now I live in Flushing, Queens with Cesar and Luna and our cat Joey Ramone, and just realised today that I haven’t actually left Flushing for the past 4 weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to travel with Luna, the opposite; I was taking her on the subway before she was 5 weeks old, and she’s been to Brooklyn and Manhattan several times. It’s just that it’s been so hot over the past few weeks, and the idea of trekking into the city with a grumpy, hot baby hasn’t been a priority. And now that she’s going through an “I don’t want to nap EVER” phase the idea is even less appetizing. The stroller is too hot and too annoying on the subway. The carriers I have are wonderful, but they also get too hot (even the mesh one), and seeing as the last place Cesar wants to go on his day off is back into the city, travel plans assume it would be just Luna and I, so no one to hold her if need a break. So anyway, that is the explanation of why I haven’t left Queens for a while.
We moved here for several reasons, but mainly because we found a good sized one bedroom apartment on the first floor for a relatively good price in terms of NYC rents. We liked the neighbourhood and the amount of parks and the quiet area we would be living in. It’s about 15 minutes walking distance from the bustle of the Main St subway stop (right at the end of the 7 train), and our neighbours are a wonderful couple who have lived here for 30 years and who share their delicious cooking with us on a weekly basis (I need to start baking again so I can actually repay them for their generosity). All I knew about Flushing before I moved here was that it was where the nanny in, well, The Nanny, grew up (and if you are French or grew up in France you will know that series off by heart as it was on every night for years on M6 around 8pm). Also, to be completely honest, I was 28 weeks pregnant when we started looking for a place and didn’t want to spend too much time on the search. I was pretty much ready to move anywhere.
I love people. But I also love my alone time. I love my daughter and I love my boyfriend. But being a first time mother can be a little isolating even for the toughest of us. Especially if your significant other works a million hours a week in the city (plus now that you live far into Queens there is a long commute too). So there are some days when I really crave interaction with other adults. Actually, not any other adult, but people I know and who know me. Phones are great, especially nowadays when you can FaceTime, and visits are great too, but I can’t expect people to always come out here (although a couple do on a very regular basis and that is also great). It was actually easier to be out and about when Luna was tiny, now it’s a little bit more difficult as she gets grumpy much, much faster. And of course the heat doesn’t help either! We’ve had some ups and downs this past month, so all plans that I have been trying to make with myself to go on visits outside of Flushing towards more adult company have been a little thwarted, what with doctors’ appointments and sleep regressions and sleep deprivation. So it’s been a month of Flushing really, and I’ve actually enjoyed it. I've also kind of enjoyed the "alone" time too, it has given me a chance to reflect on a lot of things, to discover more of where we live and to really focus on Luna and life as a stay at home mum. There are some days that I wish we hadn't moved out so far, just because of Cesar's commute time and also because I don't always have the energy to go to the city or Brooklyn to see friends and catch up, but it would be even more of a struggle if we had a smaller apartment and a higher rent! I think once Luna gets past this long-lasting growth spurt and the weather is a little less hot it will be a whole different story!
I love that I can take Luna for a walk around the quiet streets, looking at pretty houses on our way to one of the parks and not have to deal with the noise and the smells of the city. Wandering down Parsons Blvd you will see a church or temple or mosque for every single type of religion and denomination, the blue and white tower of the mosque contrasting with the angry thunder clouds and the Buddhas sitting peacefully in the garden, watching over the street. We often go to Bowne Park to look at the turtles in the pond and the osprey that likes to relax by the fountain, and then walk back through different streets, gazing at all of the different houses and making up stories about how they came to be and who lives in them. I say we, but in reality it’s really me making up the stories and telling them to Luna. Or when Cesar is with us, us making them up together and telling them to Luna. One day after a long walk in search of a specific tattoo artist and Mexican food (we weren’t actually looking for the latter but came across it) we walked past a house that then made us think of an imaginary world which one day may well become a children’s book, or books (which I want to start writing before I forget about it). All based in the streets of Flushing, Queens.
All of this Flushing is the Flushing you will probably never see if you don’t live here. What most people know is the area around Main St, the last stop on the 7 train. It’s the second Chinatown in the city, probably bigger than the one in Manhattan nowadays (although I personally haven’t measured to compare) – so many shops and people and more people and cars and more people. It’s loud and full of not so great smells and people who stand in your way or who don’t walk fast enough. But it’s also full of the most interesting shops and restaurants and market, a mix of Chinese and Korean and Vietnamese and Indian and American. It’s like a mini city within the bigger city, a place contained within itself. Citifield is within walking distance (if you don’t mind walking 30 minutes), as is Flushing Meadows Park. Corona isn’t far away, neither is Jackson Heights, and it really doesn’t take longer than an hour to get to the Lower East Side from Main St. Suburbs within the city, somewhere very different to where I have been living for most of my 10 years in this city. I don’t love it or hate it – it works well for us for now and I find it to be a very interesting place. We have our friends at the local deli, and everyone knows Luna at the Rite Aid round the corner. The ladies at the Laundromat know us by our name and I actually find it kind of fun doing our laundry there (I was dreading it after having had laundry in our unit for 6 years in Bushwick). Cesar loves his chicken wings with beef fried rice from one of the Chinese places down the street and I love the samosas and mattar paneer from the Indian spot not far away.
One thing I do miss is the lack of “regular” supermarkets and the complete lack of “organic” markets. There is however, an overabundance of Chinese supermarkets (3 within 2 blocks of our apartment). These places are really great for produce (and super cheap too), rice and noodles, beans, tofu, but not so great for everything else we want to eat (pasta, cheeses, yogurts, tortillas, bread, hummus etc etc). There is a Pathmark about a 25 minute walk away, but there are no smaller shops around where I can pick things like that up altogether all at once. I do miss Mr Kiwi for that! I’m going to have to be more proactive about making lists and getting everything that we can’t get around the corner in one go as opposed to planning on the fly. I have to say that there are some of the most interesting things in some of the supermarkets… The other day I saw a tub of live toads, right by the crabs and lobsters. They were large toads too! Do people eat toads?! How do you prepare a toad? Toad stew? Toad legs?? Steak and toad? I really must look this up!! Hmm yes it appears that toad is a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine. Yum. (Not! I’m still very much a vegetarian). It’s a pity Chinese cuisine is not on my list of favourites because I would be in heaven if it was. It’s also a pity that I am a vegetarian, a pity I could never stand meat or fish, especially fish, as the array of fresh fish on display is pretty amazing. I do love tofu, but I can’t even eat that right now as it disagrees with Luna!
I should probably branch out and try some of the “different” things that are on sale in these supermarkets. I really want to try dragonfruit as they are so pretty, but I have read that they are pretty bland in comparison to other fruit so I don’t know if it is really worth it. I’m sort of a picky eater (I love fruit and vegetables and grains and beans and nuts but I dislike meat and fish and anything squishy or slimy or of strange texture), and that’s fine when you are cooking for yourself, but not when you are cooking for others, especially not when I really want to teach my daughter to have an array of tastes. My pickiness actually developed with age – I used to always eat everything on my plate whether I liked it or not, and as I grew up I just removed things I didn’t like from my diet. It IS a very healthy and colourful diet though (when you remove the chips and the chocolate and the pizza). I’m not planning on introducing solids into Luna’s diet until she’s way past her 6 month birthday, and even then it will be slowly, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun (stay tuned for stories on that). I will just let Cesar do the meat and fish introduction when the time comes. Maybe I can make her mashed dragon fruit with a side of pureed lychee? No toad for a few years though!
Anyway, I digress, back to Flushing! I love that I can walk around and bump into the same people over and over again. I’ve always loved creating a little neighbourhood for myself, wherever I have lived (which is why I feel like I never really lived in the West Village even though I was there for two years – no old-time neighbours, no friendly shopkeepers apart from the deli down the street, no bars or coffee shops that I wanted to hang out in – I spent nearly every waking hour on the LES). I think we are somewhat finding our spot here in Flushing, but I also feel like it is temporary; this is not where we will be living for more than a year or so. There are some things that I still find a little intimidating here, for example, I walked into a salon advertising “Nails” outside and everyone turned around and stared at me – for some reason I just bolted back out of the door. Maybe I will just do my own pedicure. Or maybe I will just go right back again and just ask if they do pedicures (next time I get a chance to have a break). Or when I walked into the supermarket with my camera in the stroller, ready to take photos of toads and turtles and dragon fruit and sour melons and ended up taking sneaky photos with my phone, as if I was going to be escorted out if I showed people I was taking photos. Yes, I can be a little strange, I know.
One thing that I really need to get used to is that people are quite rude here. I’m used to New York, I’m just not used to being pushed out of the way or nearly driven over every time I go outside! I’m now pretty vocal when anything annoys me, but when we first moved here I was very pregnant and it used to shock me how nobody had any manners when it came to interacting with others. One experience will always be impressed into my mind. Back in February I was still working till late at night and there were a few weekends when you had to take a shuttle bus to Mets-Willets to get the train. When I was with Cesar it was fine, he made sure I didn’t get trampled on, but one evening I was alone and found myself being pushed by a crowd, most of whom were men may I add, and when I turned round and asked people to stop pushing as I was 8 months pregnant and because there was a young child in front of me I got insulted by a man who just pushed even harder. I really wanted to punch him so hard that I broke his jaw but refrained from it. But then a lovely lady waited to help me off the bus when we got to our destination as it had stopped at the same level as piles of black snow, which gave me hope for mankind again. It was just the whole “if we push harder then people will move faster” attitude that have found seems to happen in other places too. Not everyone is rude of course, but I do avoid Main St as much as I can, and use the side streets where you can find the most interesting of shops and restaurants. I especially like walking along 37th Avenue, it’s an excellent work out with the hills, and doesn’t get as congested as Roosevelt does. Oh and when you get to the highest part there is such a nice view of Manhattan!
There are many other places I would like to explore while we are here: I want to see more of Flushing Meadows Park, especially the Unisphere. I walked through the Botanical Garden with Luna and my mum last week, but the bridge to the Corona side of the park was closed off due to work, so that plan was foiled. There must be a way to walk there! I also would love to walk all the way up Parsons Blvd to the Whitestone Bridge park as there should be some great photo opportunities in that spot. I want to go to the Farmers Market and get all our fruit and veggies there over the summer. I would love to join the Y and take Luna to a water baby class (I suppose I could do that anywhere, but the Y is really only a 5 minute walk from our home). I should also look to see if there are any fun mommy and me classes around here, as it would be nice to meet other mums who are going through the same things (3 month sleep regression hell anyone?). I will look into that once I’m not so tired (we are back on a wake up every 2 hour at night schedule… I’ve been promised it will get better again).
So, yes, after the Lower East Side, Spanish Harlem, the West Village, Bushwick I now live in Flushing. I wonder what will be next for us…