Picture this. Alarm peals at 4 a.m. Quickly checking flight status on computer, getting dressed, kissing sleepy husband goodbye, starting the car. Glimpsing a bear lumbering into the trees as you turn left past your road. Driving mile after dark mile after dark mile through the woods, headed south and west.
Lightening electrifies the sky with magnificent eerie beauty. Rain spatters from the sky, then ceases, then spatters again. You want coffee. No open gas stations, no restaurants. You drive for two hours before a gas station appears and you gratefully praise the God of Coffee, never once judging it as “gas station coffee”. No you sip it gratefully, as if manna from the heavens.
You follow the muddled Google map directions through the itty-bitty city of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, feeling like you’re totally lost and will completely miss your flight. But–another gift from the Universe!–the directions work and you drive up to the cutest little airport in the world and walk inside to hear, “Flight 708 for Minneapolis boarding now”. What exquisite timing!
Then you fly west before boarding another plane toward the east and eventually look down through the window to glimpse the Statue of Liberty on a small island below the jet. And–hark!–there lies the hundreds of skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the long green expanse of Central Park–and now the pilot announces we’re landing in Queens. Queens, home to cheaper rents and millions of multi-cultural families and your very own daughter–and there, here she is now, waving from the baggage claim in her pretty long black dress!
You step outside. Oh no. Oh NO! Heat like you haven’t felt in months and months immediately frizzles your hair. You’re sweating, carrying your camera and heavy computer, even though your sweet daughter lugs your suitcase. You get on the most crowded bus in the Universe. The pertinent Question is How do you get off this bus? But, sure enough, it works. You nudge your way through the zillion people and alight on the sidewalk, sweating more heavily, and your daughter takes you for a run through Queens. (OK, a fast walk. OK, I didn’t tell her to slow down.)
Confucius sits atop red stool. He was carved from a single piece of wood.
Some, just some, of Diaa's many books. (He is a student of literature.)
Plant. Table. Window.
Distant city of Manhattan through apartment window in Queens
Last time I visited Ms. Kiah she lived in Manhattan in a higher-rent district. Now, she and her boyfriend live in Queens among Greeks and Egyptians and Indians and dozens of other nationalities. Some of the exterior buildings look more run down, but their apartment is newly remodeled and looks so inviting! Confucius perches on a red stool, overseeing the apartment. I feel at home immediately.
Sweltering, but at home. We sip tea. We laugh, we talk, we fall into our usual mama-daughter pattern. She lends me a black t-shirt and a fashionable white overshirt which remarkably fit (how did this happen?) and I don a skirt and we wander off through the streets of Queens, searching for a glass of wine which later turns into a strong Greek coffee–frappe–which keeps the traveler awake.
Later we meet her boyfriend, Diaa (born in Egypt, but who attended elementary school in NYC) as the subway pulls up. We were headed to meet him at a Greek restaurant, but Kiah spots him on the train. Hello, Diaa. Hello, Kathy. Hello, Kiah. I met Diaa once, a couple of years ago, at a restaurant where both he and Kiah worked, but I didn’t remember him from the dozens of introductions. Plus, they weren’t dating back then.
Kiah makes a delicious lunch!
Typical street in Queens
I like looking up at the patterns of fire escapes.
Bikes. Shadows of bikes. Mural on city wall.
Look! Another lover of the woods in the city...
Outdoor vegetables. Colorful!
We ate delicious Greek fish and Peasant Salad and lemon-butter potatoes and drank some more wine and got to know one another a little more. It was after 9 p.m., dear reader! This Mama Bear from the Forest usually goes to bed by 10 p.m. And she had risen with the stars. Thank goodness for that strong coffee.
The young ‘uns saw that Mama Bear was falterin’ so they hailed a taxi–which didn’t look anything like a taxi and made the forest lady suspicious–but, sure enough, turned out to be a taxi which any self-respecting New Yorker would know due to the license plate.
She fell in bed like a zombie, exhausted, and slept and slept, and sweated and sweated, and awoke to a forecast for 97 degrees today. The kids are still sleepin’. Mama is already hot. What will we do today? Will it involve air conditioning or perhaps sweating off calories?
Stay tuned for further adventures in the Big City. One never knows what lies ahead…