I’ve been in Astoria for a little over a year now and it’s been a fabulous, sometimes surreal experience. It’s as if you’re in a twilight zone of a complicated world— you’re definitely in New York… It’s all there— the trains, the accented people buying a bottle of wuatah from the corner bodega… the yellow cabs, the smoke rising from the streets.
But you hear Greek everywhere… The cashiers at the supermarket (the American supermarkets) realize you’re Greek because you’re carrying an Ethnikos Kyrikas in your hand and tell you to have a nice day— in Greek.
Random conversations… People road-raging, screaming “get out of the way malaka” as the pedestrian (so often) violates the don’t walk signals.
I sit inside my apartment and outside I hear entire conversations in Greek of passers-by, or Greek music blaring from the passing car.
On a random walk to the train, you’ll hear a crazy Greek woman screaming to her grandson below “Niko— prosehe ta autokinita” and you look up and she looks like she should be milking a goat in a rural Greek village.
Astoria doesn’t try to be Greek, like most Greektowns I’ve visited. It just is.
No, in Astoria, the Greek isn’t just staged or shown off for tourists. It just is.
Having grown up in Pittsburgh where you made a huge deal when you heard someone speaking Greek at the mall— this is all very surreal to me. Even in Chicago, where I lived for over 17 years, no neighborhood— not even our own Greektown there— was like this.
Over the previous year, I’ve snapped hundreds of pics with my iPhone camera… Things that caught my eye that I thought were interesting, or peculiar.
I didn’t take pics of Greek shops with flags hanging outside— they are everywhere, and many of them fit all of the cliches and stereotypes that you’d expect… Opa, Zorba’s and Greek Islands are all represented and there’s plenty of Greek keys to go around everywhere in Astoria.