Here on the left you’ve got Astoria Park. This space alone is three million square feet. Check out that lawn.
On the right, you’ve got a gorgeous view of the river and the skyline. You can see the fireworks from here on the 4th of July.
Down that road over there you’ll find Charybdis playground. You know, for the kids. Don’t know where they got the name, but it’s got something to do with Scylla Point, which is right across the water. (Silla—I think that’s how you pronounce it.)
Hm? Is there a pool? Yeah, wait ‘till you see this thing. Follow me. Designed by Robert Moses, used for the 1936 and 1964 Summer Olympics. It’s great for cooling off. The diving boards were closed off after a little accident, but don’t worry; it’ll be fixed up.
Anyway, this place has got everything you need. It’s pretty quiet, even for New York. And talk about location! You’ve got the N train over here, the 7 train over there. Don’t forget about the bridges along the river. We’re passing under the Hell Gate now, but take a look at the Triboro. Ain’t she something? Good luck finding parking in the city, though. Any questions?
I’ll take it.
Actually, I’ll take it over any other place.
Because it’s home.
Alright, my house is a few blocks east of here. Still, every time I visit, I’m not at ease until I see those bridges. It’s not even the memories. I’ve got plenty of those all over this place. To be honest, I don’t really know what it is. But it starts in Astoria Park.
The two bridges, permanently outstretched, invite you to the heart of the city no matter where you are in Astoria. They guide you around Charybdis playground and past Scylla Point. Once you pass the Hell Gate’s purple arch, it’s all green. The bridges wrap around you and the trees close the circle. The path then opens onto the lawn, a sloping hill that kneels to New York City from across the East River.
It’s here where the frequencies of the two cities interfere with each other to produce a melodic silence. The sounds from the traffic above fade out in the space between the bridges. There are children running in circles behind you as Mister Softee makes his rounds, but the noise is trapped in the streets as it struggles to climb the hill. Across the water, Manhattan is showing off as usual, but from this distance, she appears to be sleeping.
It’s here where time collides with itself and crashes down on you. The hill marks the boundary where the leisure of Astoria meets the dizzying pace of the city. Though the island lay motionless, the sun reflects off the skyscrapers and Manhattan’s energy still radiates across the river, blanketing the lawn with warmth. Kites paint the sky behind you, but the gentle blue of the Triboro finds its way through the clouds and ceaselessly funnels life into the city streets. From this one spot, fast and slow become indiscernible. The funny thing is, you can still breathe easy. You don’t feel the pressure from the two worlds colliding. Instead, you feel comfort.
I’m not sure the experience is the same for everyone. Some people need a definitive break from the city. Instead, I never want to leave it. An embrace from time to time might be nice, but that’s exactly what this is—an embrace.
Giovanni Bacarella is a first-generation Italian-American from Astoria, Queens. He doesn’t have an accent, but wishes he did. Send him an email at email@example.com.