Scenes from Astoria



Broadway & W 31st St, New York, NY 10001

Neighborhood: Astoria, Queens

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Some people around here watched the towers collapse from their rooftops. I didn't even think to go up to the roof. Like baseball, I preferred it on TV. Hell, I'm an American. When the second tower I fell I took a walk outside with my friend. We both live in Astoria and we both work at home (well, he's a comedian, so it's more like he works at night). We walked around and babbled about the end of the world. I felt like I'd better buy a can of soup. My girlfriend was being sent home from work and who knew what mayhem was to come so I figured I'd better get a can of soup for us. Part of me wanted to buy a lot of soup but that felt disloyal so I bought one can.

Like a lot of people, I watched a lot of TV. Enough that I believe the shrinks on TV who say I have trauma from all the TV. I heard a car backfire and nearly dove into a bush. I feel myself on the verge of tears for ample parts of the day. My comedian friend said, "What happens when you bomb a nation of narcissists?" What happens is we tend to talk about our "personal experiences," like buying soup or being scared by bad mufflers.

Here in Astoria, Queens you could smell it more than you could see it, that burning stench blowing up the river. You could make out the smoke, though. The smoldering. An exhausted reporter on Fox said he was "standing here in the rumble." Well, he was standing in the rumble, I guess.»

Here in Astoria people have put flowers and candles out, but the mood is strange. No big vigils, no hippie sing-alongs. Just quiet sadness, a few laser-copied pictures of the "missing." There's a big hand-drawn condolence sign under Ditmars subway stop from "The People of Cyprus."

The livery drivers have festooned their cars with flags. I don't blame them. I think about that Sikh in Phoenix who was gunned down yesterday. I guess that falls under the rubric of collateral damage, but whose?

The lady in the liquor store told my girlfriend that it was all so awful, just like when the US lobs missiles into the Middle East. I guess that took some guts to say to a stranger. I walked by an Arab Community Center but it was empty except for a lone cop sitting outside, talking quietly into his cell phone. The night we all put candles out a bunch of kids with American flags came marching down our street. "This block is all Greek and American!" one of them shouted. I looked across the way at the apartment where an Indian family lives, at the Stars and Stripes they'd pasted in their window. Probably they were American, and probably they were scared. I watched all the candles flicker up and down the street, listened to the fighter jets scream overhead. I thought of all the dead, and all the people who were going to die. Then I turned on the TV and heated some soup.

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