St. John’s Survival Guide: Fighting Homesickness

On autumn days like these, when the mercury is low and the air is cold, I think about how it’s only going to get colder, and I think about Miami, and how I used to be able to go to the beach at this time of year and it was never cool enough for me to wear more than a t-shirt outside.

Homesickness overwhelms me, and I begin to fondly remember what palm trees looked like and grow angry at the fact that every street here named 10th street is followed by 10th lane, 10th terrace, 10th place, etc. I start to find fault in everything native to Queens, and count the days until Thanksgiving so I can finally return to a place where they know how to make pastelitos and Cuban coffee.

So in order to combat homesickness, I list the things that I love about New York City in general and Queens in particular, which usually reminds me that I’m usually bored to death in the summertime and I’m actually much happier where I am now. So here are just five of the infinite things that make living in New York better than living anywhere else:

1)Fake Irish Pubs: They don’t even serve Guinness, and most people who work there don’t even know who James Joyce was, yet most bar-owners here in NYC insist on making their working-class dives appealing by hanging up Irish Flags and calling their bar “The Galloping Green” or “The Shamrock”. These places usually have no clients, so they almost never give you a hard time, and everything there is dirt-cheap, so you’re guaranteed to have a fun night.

2)Cherry Valley: I’m pretty sure that there are a million deli’s that serve food that is just as good as what’s served at this legendary Whitestone establishment, but I’ve yet to find a single one. You know the place must be good when it doesn’t deliver, and yet people still flock to this out-of-the-way corner of Queens at odd hours of the night just so they can gorge themselves on sandwiches soaked in gravy. It’s ridiculously good food, particularly when you’re in a, lets say, inebriated state.

3)The “Baby Don’t” Guys: Chances are you’ve seen this breed as you walk down the street. They’re the guys that have just gotten into a fight with their girlfriends, and are running around the street pleading with their girlfriends not to throw their things out the window of their apartment. “No baby, baby don’t, not the X-Box, please, I said I was sorry, baby don’t!” You don’t usually find altercations like these in Miami, as there are no buildings with more than two floors, so it’s highly entertaining.

4)Playing “Spot The Rat in The Subway”: This is a little game I invented while waiting for the E (as in “Extremely Slow”), The G (as in “Get a Car”), and the F (as in “Fuck you if you think you’re going anywhere”). It’s a pretty simple game: Five points are rewarded if you spot a mouse, ten points if you spot a rat, and fifteen if you spot a really big cockroach. Its very entertaining on late nights when you’re on the way back from Manhattan.

5)Jackson Heights: The only place to get great Colombian food in Miami is my grandmother’s kitchen, but Queens has an entire neighborhood full of great Colombian restaurants. I’ve had some of the best empanadas and sancochos on this side of the Panama Canal, and I’ve finally found the perfect bar to watch Colombian soccer games in. One night, at four in the morning, I started up a conversation with the “Arepa Lady”, a street vendor who used to be a judge in Medellin before emigrating to the United States after receiving death threats from Pablo Escobar. If that doesn’t sum up the American Dream, I don’t know what does.

So if you ever find yourself homesick, just do as I do and list the things you love about New York, and you’ll soon find yourself oblivious to the fact that when you go outside with wet hair it freezes after thirty seconds.

-Mario Vergara

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