Goodbye Astoria

Again a month is over and although I added three more days to it I have a feeling it cannot have been a whole month. It was a month of food, of theater and of good and valuable conversations. Rachel and Noel shared a lot with me.

I used my last day in Astoria to repeat last Sunday’s walk up to the Steinway factory and mansion – in daylight today. After another intense breakfast talk with Rachel I set out around noon. Blue sky greeted me outside and it was much warmer than the last two days. I needed my sunglasses. A man walking on the street in front of me was singing “Feliz Navidad”. He was on his way to the gym. I needed a subway station to load a last month on my metrocard, so I walked along 30th Avenue and took the train up to Ditmars Boulevard. While I was waiting for the train, it happened. The memoir I want to write about this trip showed up in my brain. Rachel had given me the last bit of inspiration I needed. Now it was there, not just the situation but as well the story – in reference to Vivian Gornick. It made me feel so good. But I will keep it a secret for a while and just discuss it with a small selection of creative friends.
On Ditmars Boulevard at first I got my eyebrows threaded, then I had a little lunch
at Martha’s Country Bakery. I enjoyed a warm spinach pie and an iced (!) tea,
looking at the huge display of awesome cakes all the time I sat there and took
notes about the book idea. Next to me two men were sitting and planning a music
thing. The younger one, an Australian, was talking about the special energy in
New York and I thought, yes, that’s true. There is a special energy. I can feel
it as well.
I turned north on 38th Street that becomes Steinway Place. That’s where the piano factory is standing. It is a huge plant.
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A worker was sweeping the leaves off the sidewalk in front of the main building.
Steinway Mansion is hidden on a hill at the end of 41st Street. To get there I had to walk right through the industrial area. Strange place for a mansion. It doesn’t look like a mansion right now. It has been for sale for a long time. On the grounds trailers and cars are standing and a man was just working on a car. The Australian in the bakery had mentioned that it finally has been sold recently.
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The green spot on the map turned out to be a hill. It is surrounded by a fence and marked as private property by the Port Authority. That’s all I could find out about it.
I walked back to Ditmars Boulevard, passing residential streets with different kinds of houses.
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On Steinway Street I took the bus back down to 30th Avenue. At Leli’s bakery I got a pumpkin muffin for now and an assortment of Pastizzi for dinner.

In the evening I was going to meet Michael Cunningham. He was reading from his not yet published book “The Snow Queen” in a literary salon. I went there for two reasons. One was Michael Cunningham, the other was to get an idea what a literary salon is like. The reading took place in a Gallery on Spring Street in West SoHo. The gallery just set up its first showing and had not opened up yet. The room is all white and looked very fresh, but on the ceiling the plastering looked like it would crumble and fall down soon. The artwork was nothing I can talk about – things I don’t understand. The salonière is a tall and skinny Russian woman in high heels, black pants and black top. Her husband did the reception and collected the 5$ admission. There were about 50 plastic chairs, the first two rows were marked “reserved”. The audience consisted of mainly artsy people. At least they looked artsy. Michael Cunningham surprised me. He came in jeans, a lousy looking t-shirt and sneakers. Around his wrist he wore a leather bracelet. The first thing he got rid of was his jacket after making sure that everybody had seen he wore one. He read standing and put on a pair of retro style nerd glasses for that. To me his appearance did not look like the appearance of a Pulitzer prize winner. But that’s thinking in clichés of course. His reading did not impress me so much. In fact I didn’t understand much because he didn’t speak very articulately. It sounded a bit as if he didn’t open his mouth while speaking. Most other people in the audience were impressed though. After the reading first the salonière asked him questions, then the audience was allowed to do so.
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Afterwards there was wine and chatting. As I didn’t know anybody to chat with but all other people seemed to do, I left after just one glass of wine.

What I learned today:
Well, I found the story of my book – it’s not born yet but conceived

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