"Just so you know, Steven Seagal has had lunch here.". Even though the name Palace makes it seem imponent, the place is an ordinary, corner snack-bar, where pizzas and calzones with substance are served every day. "Oh, yeah? And it seems that Cindy Lauper spent her childhood in this neighbourhood, did you know?", I commented, as I tried to slice my calzone - I wasn't going to be able to eat it all, who knows, with the eyes. "Yes, I knew that. But I heard he was in Astoria to get to know a second Greece". I conjured up some ideas, reviewed a few movies and let go of them with no affection. He then took a bite out his chicken gyro, because he would rather leave the Greek barbecue in pita bread for the more visceral. At the front table, a family with three children was eating Italian-American dishes. The smell of tomato sauce exhaled sauces and methods of cooking different from anything I had ever tried, that seemed kind of nice. And there was no way of staying indifferent; he, only him, looked. "They're meatballs, some pasta and pizza", he said. I remembered the meatballs from Ikea and how I had never gone back there.
This usually happens whenever I can't cook and the weather seems nice, inviting us to take a walk or two, who knows. But also because it had been a while since we passed by those quarters. And they were right in their choice, because the place became sort of a distinct place in the neighbourhood, standing out and gathering everybody. That's to say the pizza and aromas had character. I only had something to point out and it wasn't really even a complaint. It was something of minor importance: the subordinate impatience, small and immature, brought on by the slow service, in the passing of the seconds, minutes, hours... like someone who is trying to fool the pace of time. But our stomachs didn't seem to bother the boys, who worked happily at their craft. What do I know about what is happening behind the counter, about its dynamics? Nothing at all- The smell of cooking flour from the firewood oven and the melting cheeses openned up my apetite. The pleasures. I drank a bit of his coke and noticed.
A child cried disheartenedly at the back. And her little lungs made no cerimonies of any kind, because a child crying doesn't measure impulses or social norms. A pure flower - except for her high-pitched voice. From our table, what I understood was that she wanted to ride the three horses carousel that had magically found its way inside the snack bar; but her mother wouldn't let her. She kept asking the little girl to sit down and finish her pizza. I had a bag full of quarters in my purse that I carried around because of the laundry. I thought about giving her some just to stop this disquiet, however, I decided not to interfere. We were heading out by the time quietness and radio music did the trick and the crying stopped. A gentleman, around eighty, in a beret and suspensories, holding an Italian newspaper from the community, handed a coin to the child, who got clumsily up the horse, smiling and sobbing tears. There wasn't enough time to see her mother's countenance. The wind slammed the door and we were only able to hear the beginning of the carousel song, playing bumpily and with an automatic voice: "Old MacDonald had a farm...".
The train didn't take long and, in Astoria Boulevard we were warned that it would go express until Queensboro Plaza. That doesn't always happen. We sat facing the window, with the lansdcape unravelling, mounted and stained, because for each station there was a piece of the city that was suddenly left behind. At the last station he got in, he was Mr. Smile. I was relieved, because I hadn't seen him in a while, and happy because his appearance was strong and bright, of someone who was really taking care of himself. Safe and sound! We arived at the park in less than 20 minutes and got in through the paiter's hallway. A Korean man called me with his hand and showed me a ten with his fingers. I thanked him and he insisted: "just 10 dollars", easy and smiling. There were various portraits and ephemeral caricatures. Princess Diana was everywhere, next to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Surprisingly a boy bought a Bush caricature, while a couple took the one of Al Pacino.
We walked a little, in circles. We walked by the carousel, true to the incessant life and stopped for a moment. The horse winked and surrealisticly smiled, as if he was on some sort of unforgetable, excessive journey. There was no sight of rain and the wind was ideal for the manes and the galloping. Suddenly a smell of popcorn rose from the bushes and we started walking again, crossing sidewalks and bicycle trails as green as only this season allows. From afar, the bride and groom posed for photographs, while the boats, one by one displayed their oars in hugs that softened the drift. The mothers, side be side, made sure everything was flawless, whispering tendernesses and laments we could imagine from the shape of their lipstick-coloured lips, delicate cherries. There was no one who wouldn't stop and stare, including pigeons and dogs. And we stayed there - not on the bench or the grass - with no one to say goodbye to, just waiting for the whole sun to overflow back.
Text by Isabella Kantek