Posted by: Orlick | March 5, 2009

Opinion of NYT Article:In Queens: A Melting Pot, and a Closed Book

Excerpt from“In Queens – An Exotic Melting Pot, And a Closed Book”

NEW YORK’S most impenetrable night spot is not a chic Manhattan lounge but an unmarked Korean bar tucked under the el in Jackson Heights, Queens. One night, driven by curiosity, I vowed to penetrate the black plastic facade that effectively shielded the place from voyeurs like me.

This article was passed on to me recently by some friends of the neighborhood. Some people were up in arms and some thought there were a few misunderstandings, but most were happy to have this gentleman come to his senses and leave.

It’s a short article. Just 2 pages on a computer screen. And from talking with the author, it was shorter than once written. I can identify with many of the experiences he wrote about, from being alone to suspecting brothels to his running and my bicycle riding to being a highly identifiable gringo and being somewhere, culturally, we weren’t supposed to be. The difference, though, in the end, is that I’m staying.

Let me tell you something: If you have a misunderstanding, resolve it. When this came out, message board was alive with typers criticizing the author’s criticisms. But for me, instead of speculating along with the crowd, I decided to write the author.

Hey Adam, your article was passed along to me by a friend who also lives in Jackson Heights. I moved to JH last June mainly for one reason, the food. I can definitely see many parallels to you and I in the neighborhood. At points, I felt as if I could have written the article, being a younger white male, moving to the intersection of Woodside, JH, and Elmhurst – at the cross section of so many different cultures… Looking for adventures and a broader mind. Even though I don’t jog, and would never think of jogging especially in a busy street like roosevelt ave, I see many of your points. Unfortunately, I don’t think you went far enough, and maybe you need some help getting assimilated in neighborhoods like this just like those immigrants do. Maybe you are a Manhattanite at heart, and that’s fine.

So, I don’t think you went far enough in the neighborhood. I went in with the same expectations, but maybe I’ve had more success so far, despite the same setbacks you encountered. One of the problems was going the restaurants alone, and not knowing what to order. Solution: I created a restaurant club centered in Jackson Heights. A lot of times people are afraid to go alone. This alleviated that fear for many people. People are now meeting others in the neighborhood, and I’m seeing a big sampling of a spread of food. So that’s good.
As for the racist tendencies of what I think is Ready Penny (or Legends), welcome to bars. Also, recognize people’s pride in their race here. Here, I am finally feeling proud of my heritage as a Jew. Something I never told people with pride before really. Not saying that it’s great, but people drink in bars and say stupid things. Looking for a great bar? Obviously you never found Terrazza Cafe. It took me a while to find it, but for a single straight male, this is the only stop in town – but it would be a great bar anywhere.

If you want to assimilate, you need to make friends and have people that can bring you in to the areas. Not expect people to just welcome you with open arms. They aren’t catering to tourists here, maybe you were looking for the Manhattan experience. It shows by the fact that you gave up and moved there.

Ever come back to Jackson Heights? Maybe you’d like to go on some adventures with me. We could probably teach each other a thing or two. Let me know.

From 73rd and 41st,
Jeff Orlick

oh, and here are what some of the locals are saying. Maybe it can give you some insight.
jeff. thanks for writing and for your feedback, which is highly valued.

i did find terrazza and love it dearly. the essay was double in length, but was edited for space restrictions. i had about two graphs on terrazza.

judging by the many reader emails, some people dont seem to understand (or more likely, I failed to convey) that i love and respect queens for being so authentic, for rejecting me in so many ways, for not selling out. as i wrote, it IS that authentic. it remains my favorite neighborhood in the world. perhaps i should have made this more obvious, but i hoped people would read between the lines, and thought to make it more subtle.

as for meeting up, it sounds fun, but im in Afghanistan now.

Adam B. Ellick
The New York Times

Reading my own letter, I was embarrassingly full of snarkasm. Which is a way I prefer not to participate in. I will admit, I was probably influenced by the JHLife thread and sometimes I get animated when defending my friends and my neighborhood. Mr. Ellick wrote back like a gentleman and I respect that.

NYT Article “In Queens – An Exotic Melting Pot, And a Closed Book”
JHLife thread


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