Late last week i was inspired to write about my own neighborhood in Astoria, NY. A very scary and potentially devastating attempt was made to blow up many innocent humans, walking the streets of New York. The best way i found to express during this time was to post the following blog on my public Facebook page. I’m planning to do more with this over time, but for now i wanted to make sure it is saved in my blog for posterity.
NYC: I really love you! I really love where i live. You bring me hope in many ways! With so much hate, anger, pain and fear, this place is a beacon.My apartment building/street that i live on is amazing and a prime example of how NYC can be the BEST! Diversity/kindness/friendship/happiness/love.
My upstairs neighbors’ from the small country of Montenegro bring me cigars from their dad. They have 2 boys and another on the way.The kind husband is a hardworking doorman at a fancy NYC apartment building. Their father(and mother) are my landlords and have done nothing as Immigrant Americans; except to raise 5 boys in a 1 bedroom apartment. He bought my current building and supported his family by working in the same Italian restaurant as a waiter, that he still works in today. His customers love him, give him cigars and he drops them off for me, at my door, of my apartment, that he owns, that i pay him for. He brings over his brother to fix any and every possible thing that could be a problem in my apartment. The brother, upon meeting us for the very first time; measured our windows, offered and subsequently drove us in HIS CAR to Home Depot, helped us pick out new shades, cut them, carried them, drove us home and installed them for us. FOR FREE.
Another neighbor is from Costa Rica and his wife from Mexico. He found out that i lived and studied in Costa Rica and brings me gifts, weekly. Hot sauce, pictures, coffee and candy are the things i remember off the top of my head. He also loves to challenge my Spanish skills. He drives buses for the city and his wife cleans apartments and offices. Their recent high school graduate son loves to lift weights and talk to me about it. He studies fashion in the city now. They are as friendly as any humans i’ve known in 38 years.
The old man down the street sits outside on his stoop, seemingly at all hours. He keeps a small, padded seat on the stair of the stoop. Nobody bothers it. The only things he puts in his body for sustenance is coffee and cigarettes, apparently. He always waves at me and never misses the chance to bring up the weather to Amy.
Upstairs, other neighbors are Moroccan. People call the father the “professor” because he teaches computer science at a college. They have beautiful children, who always stop and say hi to me. They are faithful Muslims.They love our other next-door neighbors whom i mention in the next paragraph.
Next door are our ( my wife Amy Van Norstrand Murphy ) and my FAVORITES! She is from Sicily as are her husband and best friend. They must be at least 75 or 80 years old. They are the Mayors of my street. They sit outside in their lawn chairs, on the sidewalk. She is the only one who speaks English, with a truly amazing, thick accent. This amazing woman often screams to me “Brian, where is beautiful Amy? Amy good? She is a perfect, beautiful woman. Isn’t life beautiful? You both are so beautiful.” She kisses every single child who walks by her. ALL OF THEM. She gets out of her chair, kisses them, speaks to their parents, goes to the basement and brings them candy. Oftentimes the children are Muslim.
I can’t pronounce most of the names of the immigrants and 1st generation Americans from reading them on the mailboxes in our vestibule, and I’m pretty damn good with names. But i do know that these are damn fine people. As good as any folks i’ve ever had the privilege to live near. A lot of people i know, who i grew up with and went to school with would be terrified just looking at our mailboxes.The obscure names from countries i can barely find on a map. But I’m so unbelievably grateful for having this wonderful opportunity to know better. My hope is that many others will be lucky enough to experience this like i am.
We sure are lucky, Amy Van Norstrand Murphy!