Decking Out in Anytown, Queens

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06/01/2006

5010 Northern Blvd., Long Island City, NY 11101

Neighborhood: Outer Boroughs, Queens

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The first nice weekend of the season, temperatures in the 70s, a light breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. A year ago today, I would have had a pang of jealousy thinking of the suburbanites who were combing their garages and heading to Home Depot to find tiki torches, bug zappers, weed whackers, and new patio furniture for their vast decks and backyards. They got to enjoy a slice of the outdoors–free of others–while I was trapped in my 900 degree New York City apartment, unless I felt like going to a crowded park. What a difference a year can make.

No longer am I stuck in a studio apartment, albeit lovely studio apartment, on the first floor of a building where the super insisted on keeping the heat on high until the calendar read May 1st. I am now sharing a large two bedroom place with windows on all sides (allowing for the elusive and much sought after "cross-breeze") with my fiancé, Eric. A place where a large cat and dog can coexist peacefully--for the most part. A place that allows an ultra-organized only child and a man who saves everything to live in harmony. A place that has a "deck."

Decks in New York City are usually the roofs of buildings or parts of buildings, and ours is no different. Our landlords built an additional room on the front of their house years ago, unintentionally creating a large, 12' X 15' deck with 2.5' high "railing" that can be accessed from our living room window.

So on this gorgeous weekend, inspired by the shining sun, I delved deep into my suburban roots and said to Eric, "We need to fix up the deck today."

A short walk to National Wholesale Liquidators (aka store with tons of crap and glorious finds for bargain basement prices) later, and we were searching for inspiring patio items. As soon as we pushed through the automatic doors, Eric yelled "Astro Turf!" I turned to him, recalling how we made fun of the man on our corner for Astro Turfing his driveway, and the neighbors for Astro Turfing their backyard. Were we about to become just like them? Swallowing my pride and conjuring my inner campy-ness, I said "Oh yeah, lets get us some of that!" We picked up a 4’ X 6’ piece of Astro Turf and, along with two beach chairs, proceeded through the checkout. Lugging our loot on the walk back to the apartment I said, "It really doesn't get any better than this."

As soon as we got home, we rolled out our glistening green deck lawn, placed our two beach chairs on top and put a small table in between them. Within 15 minutes, we had created our own slice of heaven in Queens, a little chunk of suburbian, an "Anytown USA."»

We grabbed some edamamme, chips, salsa, and other snacks, mixed some gin and tonics and climbed carefully out the window to enjoy our bit of paradise. As we basked in the sun, and in the glory of our little creation, I turned to Eric and said, "People with big suburban houses would probably think we're crazy for being so excited about two beach chairs and a piece of astro turf on a roof."

Eric turned to me and said, "Well I think they are crazy."

I thought about it and realized he was right. What did the sounds and smells of spring truly mean in my suburban youth? It meant endless raking, leaf blowing, lawn mowing, weed whacking, pruning, planting, lawn doctoring, painting, and doing just about anything else that would ensure that nature didn't get too "natural." Lazy weekend mornings were always interrupted by the buzzing of dueling lawnmowers, interspersed with squawks from angry birds, rousing me from slumber. When my parents weren't rambling on about what needed to be done to the house, deck, or lawn that day, they were planning what they would have to do to the house, deck, or lawn in the future. They were constantly complaining about what some neighbor had done to their yard that would hinder our own "view." Time to actually sit and enjoy the deck, lawn, or yard was limited to 20 minutes before dinner on a Saturday, most of which was spent complaining about the neighbor's smelly grill or septic system, or a tree that needed to come down or be put up.

In contrast, our little bit of “Anytown, USA” always has a green lawn, which can be folded up in the rain. It is within walking distance of fantastic cuisine, and it is a $2 subway ride from the Empire State Building. There are no lawnmowers here, which means no lawnmower noise or fresh-cut grass allergies. There are no muddy shoes in the rain.

So dear suburbanites, as you throw the first batch of chemicals on the lawn, and spray the trees with whatever it is you spray them with, I saw to you this: if you want to get a real taste of simple outdoor living, come visit us in “Anytown, Queens, USA.” We hope to have our pink lawn flamingo by then.

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