Jackson Heights

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Jackson Heights – a little New York City neighborhood, located somewhere between Pakistan and Colombia. At least, that’s how one of my new neighbors described it. As Jackson Heights is the most diverse neighborhood in the most diverse city (NYC) in the United States, a country of immigrants, I would have to agree. Several months ago, Neil and I decided to trade in our East Village rental for a place of our own, and the historic district of Jackson Heights seemed like the perfect ‘hood to do it in. Even though it’s only a short subway ride to Times Square, traveling to Jackson Heights makes you feel like you’d better pack your passport. I did some drawings at the  plaza near the 74th St. subway station, a section of the neighborhood that is full of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and more recently, Tibetan shops.

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There are reportedly 167 languages spoken here, and I heard several of them as I drew in the plaza. It’s taking a little while for this to feel like home, but I’m really enjoying my new surroundings. Jackson Heights is in the borough of Queens, across the East River. Those of you who live in Manhattan might understand the feeling of leaving Manhattan after 15 years. Remember the scene in Sex and the City where Miranda moves to Brooklyn? And what a major upheaval it was? The movie was not exaggerating in the slightest. Manhattanites think the world ends at the Hudson and East Rivers, and I was a little trepidacious, to say the least! What about my 24 hour deli? My take out addiction? My need to mingle with people I don’t know, who are moving about in large crowds? I’ve found that I’ve been able to fulfill all of those Earthly needs right here, albeit in a package that doesn’t have any English words on it. And the travel time to Manhattan is fairly short – basically the trip to most neighborhoods takes the same time as when I lived downtown. I keep leaving too early to get there…basically it’s only 15 minutes by train to midtown, but I keep adding an additional half hour or so…seems that going over (or under) the East River is a larger trip mentally than physically.

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The shop above is one of many selling multi-colored fabrics. There are many sari shops and jewelry shops full of traditional Indian gold necklaces, earrings, etc. along 74th St. Living here is certainly going to sharpen up my accessories wardrobe. As you walk down the street past these various shops, the shopkeepers speak to you in many languages, trying to entice you in to view their wares. Oh, and did I mention that the whole street smells like curry? That smell greets me as I get off the subway, and is starting to smell like home. Neil and I have enjoyed visiting the Patel Brothers store on 74th, and trying to imagine who is buying the 40 lb bag of basmati rice. Not us, yet, but give us a few more months and we probably will.

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This is a drawing of the 74th St. elevated station, and the darkness of Roosevelt Avenue below. The 7 train runs along Roosevelt Ave., which is a different world from 74th Street, even though it’s only feet away. Roosevelt Ave. has plenty of empanada shops (more on that in a later post) as well as bars with taxi dancers, massage rooms, karaoke, cheap 99¢ stores, vendors with push carts selling some of the best tacos I’ve ever had (my cholesterol has shot up from living here, no joke!) and plenty of gay bars. Jackson Heights is one of the earliest gay neighborhoods in NYC. I told you it was diverse! And if you take the 7 train one more stop to 82nd Street, you’ll be in the largest Colombian neighborhood in New York City. Neil is happy, since I have a great chance to practice my Spanish now, although every time I speak to someone in Español, they answer in English. I think I have more work to do in that area…

These 74th and 82nd St. stations border the historic district, a beautiful area full of flowers and trees, along with plenty of old NY brick buildings. It’s exciting to have a new neighborhood to explore, and now that summer is almost here I’m looking forward to drawing, and posting, a lot more.

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