Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Creepiest Part of Queens

For those of you who follow this blog with any consistency (thanks mom...), you may remember that during my 2005 study abroad semester in Switzerland, I learned the indestructible nature of Swiss bubble bath bubbles. I was also obsessed with trying to make people believe I'm European. I attribute this to the fact that the overwhelming exposure I had had to Americans was...I'll stop there.

After an internship in New Orleans, living in France, and having been in New York for a few months, I finally started to realize that Americans can be waaaay cooler than Europeans. Indeed, Europeans are not equipped with a microchip at birth bestowing cultural awareness, the ability to wear clothes that fit, and understanding the merits of portion control, as I originally thought. There are actually a ton of cool people (MY definition of cool) everywhere in the world, and I am very thankful that many of them, North Americans, Europeans, Africans, Latin Americans, and (maybe 10) Asians alike, ended up as my classmates in grad school.

One random weekend, 9 of my classmates, and my friend Daniel and I decided to go to Jackson Heights and get Indian food. I organized the dinner, and told everyone to meet by the subway station around 7. Wanting to make this an authentic Indian experience, I showed up at 8:30. Since I hadn't actually picked out a restaurant, we ended up wandering around until we finally found a place that would take 11 people at the last minute on a Saturday night. I'm such a good host!

Regardless, my New York friends are the perfect combination of smart and hilarious, so we passed the perfect night of exchanging witty jokes, astute observations, and taking way too long how to figure out how to split the check. (Splitting the check properly is hard for everyone, smart and stupid.)

Happy times in Queens

For those of you who have ever been to Jackson Heights, you may know of this one store that sells 10-year old CDs, 20-year old videotapes, and the prize above all other prizes: the Indian workout DVD. This said Indian workout DVD is prominently showcased on the TV sitting above the entrance of the store. In fact, the same 90 second segment has been on a constant loop every day from 10 AM - 10 PM for at least the past three years. Naturally, we danced to the beat before getting back on the train. I'm such a good Indian!

Heavy Indian food tends to put people in a food coma. Since it was a cold weekend in February and most Queens stations are above ground, that ride back to Manhattan was one of the rare instances where being on the subway was actually a desirable alternative. But it was only 11 PM on a Saturday night, so after a few nonsensical remarks, Daniel and I decided to explore one of the no-man's lands of New York City: Roosevelt Island. Trying to make a dramatic exit, we waited as long as possible to awkwardly hurl ourselves through the doors. Sadly, the doors bounced back open for at least 30 seconds afterward, so we just looked stupid.

Anyway, Roosevelt Island is a thin strip of land in between Manhattan and Queens. There is only one subway stop to the island, which provides the only public transportation to get on or off after hours or on the weekends. Roosevelt Island is also the creepiest part of Queens.

After making our failed dramatic exit, Daniel and I got on the giant escalator that takes you up to ground level. As though people knew that we weren't residents of the island, nearly every person silently turned to stare at us as we made our way up. Once at the top, I noticed a teenage boy who was mechanically spinning his yo-yo. Right as we passed by the boy, he whipped his head up and made eye contact, giving me the most horrid deadpan look.

We started down one of the walkways going towards the south end of the island. A few minutes in, we heard a macabre whistling noise. If Daniel and I were cats, we'd both have used our nine lives before the age of two, so we continued down the path. Coming up to a giant brick structure, we peered around the building and saw five men, each electronic wheelchair bound, each making giant loops around each other. Not a single man uttered a sound, allowing the macabre whistling of their chairs to echo through the entire complex. They seemed completely unaware of where they were going or why they were doing what they were doing.

Completely creeped out, but lacking any real judgment in the situation, we kept walking down the path. Eventually, we found one the strangest landmarks I have ever seen. Jutting out onto the river, half of a fake metal ship sticks out from the bank of Roosevelt Island, almost as if implying a ship was once wrecked on the spot. By this point, Daniel had been complaining about the terrors of his job for at least 20 minutes. Maybe it was the job angst, maybe it was the creepiness of the island, but for whatever reason, Daniel began pretending to throw himself overboard the fake ship. At least I hope he was pretending.

Creepy times in Queens

In the midst of Daniel's overboard throwing, a pickup truck came driving down the road. Then it came down to the path. Then it came down to the ship. And then it blocked us in. For a solid 60 seconds, the massive pickup truck's lights shone directly in our faces. Then without rhyme nor reason, it backed up, and turned around.

That did it. As soon as the truck was out of sight, we half-ran, half-cursed heavy Indian food all the way back to the station. Avoiding possessed trucks, circling wheelchairs, zombie teenagers, and robotic people, we got the f*ck out of Roosevelt Island. This time, our dramatic jump between the train and the platform was totally genuine.

In conclusion, stay away from Roosevelt Island. Right? Nope! I've been back like 5 times.
Curiosity works in mysterious ways.

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