I went for the big long walk today, the one that I always take. It goes West along the edge of Queens, where Astoria meets the East River. It’s nice and picturesque, has the biggest public swimming pool I’ve ever seen (about 3 Olympic-sized pools, along with a sprinkler area for the youngest potential drowning victims and a deep high-diving area long since abandoned for legal reasons) and a nice stretch of open grass that many people use for tanning. As I’m trying to look a little more healthy and less pasty and cancerous these days I went there and tanned for an hour or so. Besides, doctors are now saying tanning a bit is good for you. I’m starting to think the entire medical community is actually run by a Magic 8-ball.
As I lay there, I noticed a couple of bees collecting their pollen from the clover flowers. Years ago, after seeing Bambi one day, I took Thumper’s advice and tried one and was quite impressed with its flavor. I was at least 15. I guess all the news about bees dying out lately has made me a little more sympathetic to the little guys’ plight, and rather than swatting them away and/or running like hell, as would be my usual inclination, I simply stood up and got out of the way while they did their thing. The bees seemed grateful.
Upon getting up and looking out over the grassy area, I noticed dragonflies and even a butterfly. Growing up across the street from woods in the heavily shaded suburbs of Detroit I never noticed such a swath of wildlife as I did in this sorry excuse for a natural environment in the most densely populated city on the continent. I even see fireflies at night on occasion. I wondered what we had done in Detroit to get rid of all of these critters, and in reply, the man on the NPR podcast I was listening to answered: killin’ em. We make our world a reflection of ourselves: a burned out, used up shell unable to sustain the basic requirements of meaningful existence.
I gathered up my old bedsheet and started walking, my eyes taking quick account of the other sunbathers around me. None of them were particularly good looking, though several were in decent shape. I couldn’t decide whether to feel disappointed or simply less intimidated by this. As if to prove to myself that I would start feeling better about myself, I decided to walk home shirtless, both to work on my tan and my self esteem. Said self esteem would have prevented me from showing off my still slightly-bulging gut and sunken chest a few months ago. I’d have like to have thought that months of sporadic gym usage had diminished the presence of either, but the reality of things weighed on me too heavily to take such a notion seriously. Nonetheless, I carried my man-purse in my hand rather than use the strap, lest I end up with a ridiculous tan line.
As I walked back in the general direction towards my apartment about a mile away or so, one of the five or six NPR hosts named Ira talked about some unfamiliar author/comedian’s pointless experiences on the Upper West Side, and as I tried to relate and to care about said author, it occurred to me how different this quiet area of Queens felt from the “city”, as those of us in the outer-boroughs call it. Since I had started working from home nearly a year ago, I found myself in Manhattan less and less these days, and not particularly missing it. On the few occasions I found myself wandering on its now too-familiar overcrowded streets, I wondered how anyone could possibly live amongst so many ludicrous people. What was once my life blood was starting to tire me out.
And yet, Queens seemed just as annoying, in a less precise way: a place unable to decide if it wanted to be city or suburb, and not fitting comfortably into either category. How fitting that I have spent seven years of my life here.
This morning I killed a cockroach in my bathroom. It was about the size of my pinky finger, from the top knuckle upward. This made it one of the smaller roaches I’ve killed. I was standing at my sink and looked down, noticing it nearly cuddling up against my sandal. Instinctively, I stomped it a few times until its entrails lay spread in front of it. As I scooped up its remains in a piece of toilet paper, I realized that roaches no longer scare me, but merely depress me, for the sole reason that they are an inescapable reminder of what I no longer am willing to put up with.