6 Things Only People From Queens Will Understand

When I say that I’m from Queens, what I really mean is, I grew up on Long Island, and moved to Astoria right after college. That’s the same as being from Queens, right? Anybody? Listen, Queens is like the number one immigrant destination in the country. And so, technically, yes, I can say I’m from Queens, just like my neighbors from Lahore can say that they’re from Queens too. My journey just happened to lack all of that hardship and sacrifice. Yeah, I guess mine wasn’t really much of a journey. I think my dad drove in with the minivan to help move the mattress to my first apartment.
But come on. Long Island’s not that far away. And do I really have to get out the map? Queens, Long Island, even Brooklyn, it’s all the same geographical landmass. I’m not even kidding, one time I rode my bike from my place in Queens to my parents’ house on Long Island. It didn’t even take that much more than an hour. Also, Queens is huge. It’s the biggest borough. Like once you get past where the subways don’t run anymore, those outer Queens neighborhoods are virtually identical to where I grew up. Some of them are even much nicer (I’m looking at your, Douglaston.)
So whatever, call me a poser, but here are 6 things only people from Queens will understand.
image - Flickr / Nekenasoa
image – Flickr / Nekenasoa

1. Diversity

OK, maybe you don’t have to be from Queens to understand diversity, but our borough is like a modern day Ellis Island. You know, without the typhoid quarantine rooms and forced name-changing registration books. OK, look, I went to an all-boys Catholic high school (on Long Island) where only about ten out of the sixteen hundred students weren’t white. So I can appreciate how any comments about diversity coming out of my mouth tend to sound straight out an after-school-special. But for real, Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country.

And I’m not just talking about all the different restaurants available to deliver take-out. (Although, from Filipino fast-food chains to the best falafel in New York, we’ve got basically every food group covered.) I’m talking about people with backgrounds from all over world living together in this multicultural ethnic tapestry. Sure, that sounds cheesy as hell, but it’s true. In Queens, different communities oftentimes exist occupying the same exact space. The result, I think, is the truest example of America as a melting pot.

2. Wait, where?

In Queens. What, you’re lost? Well, nobody really gets lost anymore, not since everybody started carrying around their own personal GPS inside their pockets. But even if you do know where you’re going, if you’re going to get lost anywhere in modern America, it’s probably going to be in Queens.

image - Flickr / Doug Letterman
image – Flickr / Doug Letterman

Don’t believe me? I live on 31st Drive. The next street over is 31st Road. After that it’s 31st Avenue. Confusing? Yeah. I get rings on my doorbell all the time, delivery guys that can’t tell if it was me that ordered food or one of my almost identically addressed counterparts. Apparently there’s supposed to be some order behind what looks like chaos, although you might need an advanced degree in urban planning in order to figure out the system. Just don’t get discouraged if you can’t find your way around Queens. In addition to Roads, Avenues, and Drives, there are Crescents, Terraces, Streets, Places and Lanes. Take solace in the fact that you’re hardly the first person to get totally lost meeting a friend at 60th and 60th.

3. No, seriously, where? Is that a hyphen?

Oh yeah, and to make things just a little more confusing, all of the street addresses are two sets of numbers separated by a hyphen. Nothing says going to Queens quite like typing in a bunch of hyphenated numerals into your maps app followed by, “Sorry, we couldn’t find that address. Did you mean …” No, I meant it like I wrote it. It’s the same with online delivery. “We are unable to verify your address. Send anyway?” Come on, you can’t figure out how to incorporate a dash into an online address form?

There’s actually a good reason for the hyphen. It’s supposed to serve as a small clue to help you get a little closer to figuring out where you’re going. So if you’re address is, let’s say, 12-34 32nd Street, then the second part, that 34, tells you that the cross street is 34th Avenue. In theory, this is great. It gets a little complicated though when, say, then next avenue after 34th Ave. is Broadway, and then it picks up again with 31st. In that case, I think they just make up a random number, at least to maintain the continuity of the hyphen.

4. Shea Stadium was cooler

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

Yes, it was a dump. But it was our dump. Have the Mets won any World Series since they moved to Citibank Field? I’m not saying it’s a direct causal relationship, but it’s hard to ignore such striking evidence. And why did Citibank get to take over the Mets? How come the Yankees got to keep their stadium as simply Yankee Stadium while we have to suffer the indignity of the corporate branding? Does anybody else feel a little dirty saying “Pepsi Porch?”

Shea Stadium was awesome. The post-modern ruins of the World’s Fair, that giant metal globe at Corona Park, that other stadium across the way where they play tennis once a year, all of it capped off by those huge neon baseball player silhouettes that lined the perimeter of Shea. I don’t know, maybe Citi Field will grow on me in like twenty or thirty years, but every time I see that logo, all I think is, “Sorry we almost ruined the economy. Thanks for selling us the Mets.”

5. Does that Wendy’s Look Familiar?

The one that was on Queens Boulevard, don’t you feel like you’ve seen it somewhere? Maybe a classic 1980s comedy? Yep, that was it, the McDowell’s from Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. Unfortunately, they tore it down in 2013 to make room for some ultra luxury condo or something. I always ride my bike to and from work across the Queensboro Bridge, and once in a while I’d stay on the bike lane to Queens Boulevard. I’d ride to Wendy’s, thinking about asking for a manager and saying something like, “When you think of garbage, think of Akeem!”

But I never made it inside. I’d always get too tempted by the White Castle just down the block. There used to be a White Castle right across from where I live by 21st Street. But one day I went to get a Crave Case and there was a sign on the door: “Sorry! We’re closing down! Visit us at Queens Boulevard!” I was so pissed, but a little hopeful. I thought, man, if they got White Castle to close up shop, there must be something really amazing coming to take its place. And I waited and watched as construction crews came and did all of this work behind taped-up windows. And then one day, finally, the big reveal: a Radio Shack. I’ve never been more disappointed in my life. Honestly, in like two years since it’s been in business, I’ve never any customers inside. I have no idea how they’re turning a profit. White Castle, on the other hand, had a line out the door, twenty-four hours a day. They even had a pedestrian drive-thru on the outside, for those times where you really wanted White Castle, but just didn’t feel like going all the way inside.

6. Queens is the best


I got off topic a little, but Queens is great. It’s the greatest borough in the city. If I had to rank all five boroughs, I’d start with Queens as number one, obviously, and then I’d get so bored thinking about all of the other boroughs, like Staten Island, or Brooklyn, and I’d just give up, because who cares? Let them all be tied for a very, very distant second place.

Really, it doesn’t matter. Queens is number one. Did I mention that it’s the biggest borough? I read that in some statistic somewhere. There were actually two statistics, one of them said biggest per capita, and the other said biggest geographically. And now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t remember which one applied to Queens. The other one was the Bronx. Whatever, let’s just say that Queens is the biggest. It’s the best, and the biggest. If you’re from Queens, you know just what I’m talking about. And if you’re from Long Island and now you’re living in Queens, then you totally know even more, exactly what I’m talking about. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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Rob Gunther

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