I live in Queens — or, as I like to call it, Deep Queens. It's a mile from the subway and then 40-plus minutes on the express train to get into Manhattan. But, I always surprise people when they ask where I live — at least the people who really mean "Manhattan or Brooklyn?" People then assume I live in Astoria or Long Island City, based on my demographic. It means they frequently ask, "Why?" when I say I live in an area they don't know.
There are a lot of different reasons why I moved here after college — but mostly it was that my job at an online feminist journal didn't pay a lot (shocking, I know). All of a sudden, nearly four years have gone by, and I still live in Queens. Manhattan and Brooklyn are so outrageously expensive that moving to either would mean I couldn't do anything else except live there. Queens, on the other hand, is affordable, and I can walk my dog in ratty pajamas without local fashion people giving me side-eye. It also means being able to have a dog without feeling guilty. Queens is knowing that the manager of my local pet-supply store has the same name as my dog.
Queens is overhearing my elderly neighbor whisper to her friend, "Lesbians in the neighborhood!" when we first moved in, and Queens is knowing that they don't really mean it in a hostile way, they've just never lived next to lesbians before (that they know of). Queens is buying an old, sturdy-ish Subaru with my girlfriend and enjoying a rare NYC perk of a reliable, free place to park it.
Queens, or at least my neighborhood, is lacking in independently owned coffee shops but loves a conveniently located Starbucks. Queens is pretty basic, but it wouldn't understand what you meant if you called it basic, so don't try. Parts of Queens are "nice" and other parts are "not nice," but none of it is really trendy or cool or hip, at least according to how those things are defined in other boroughs. Queens isn't trying to be any of those things. When I see hipsters in Queens, I want to politely offer the potentially helpful information that PS1 is four express stops on the E back toward Manhattan, because usually that's why they've come to Queens. Long Island City, it seems, would be better off in Brooklyn.
Living in Queens means many of my coworkers say they have never been to the borough, which makes me feel like I'm kind of mysterious, even though my borough is potentially the least mysterious place on earth. It means my friends who live in Brooklyn say that maybe I'll have the last laugh when they're priced out of their apartments. It means I think I definitely will.
Queens isn't being gentrified in the same way you see in Brooklyn. Queens is a busride to Brooklyn instead of a subway, and buses are nice because I get to check my email or even make a phone call while I'm in transit. Queens is a mega-schlep to get anywhere fun, which means I have to be really selective about where I schlep to, which means I weed out the things I didn't really want to do anyway. Living in Queens is constantly looking for things to feel positive about, which, if you look on the bright side, is a good life skill to have.
Living in Queens is hearing crickets at night instead of the roar of NYC transplants, who have yet to discover the cheap, basic, quiet wonder of areas deep in Queens. Deep Queens has hidden gems, like this really amazing, family-owned pizza place that's been around since my dad was growing up here. Actually, both of my parents are from Queens. As a kid, I pictured Queens Boulevard before Times Square when someone said 'New York City,' which is where my grandparents still live. Living in Queens for me is having roots in a city where many people arrive rootless, and I think that's mostly why I've stayed.
That, and my dog has made a lot of friends in the neighborhood.
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