Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mighty Borough of Queens

In Elmhurst Queens: Celestine, Jocelyn, Natalie and Margie.

Across Manhattan and over the 59th Street Bridge to Queens Boulevard. That's how we arrived in Queens, the most ethnically diverse borough in all of New York. First, we stopped to say hello to Eli Spaulding, a youth minister at a Queens church that occupies the famous Elks lodge on Queens Boulevard. (Faithful readers might remember Eli from a previous entry: “Giants of the Midwest.”) He showed Theo and me all the interesting architectural details of the historic building, including a room that had some 200 young people standing, swaying and swinging to gospel music. (No thank you, Mr. Usher, we're just observing. Margie and Natalie are in the car waiting.)

A word here about the walk to the Elks building from the car in the parking lot. When Theo and I turned the corner, we were hit in the face with the most powerful arctic blast ever to knock me with a ton of bricks. The hood of Theo's IU jacket instantly ripped off his head, and his hair looked like it was being pulled from his scalp. I was shaken by the force and rattled by the noise. I also felt a momentary rush of pride in Theo – I expected him to wail in pain and fear, but my brave child was merely squinting. Collecting my wits, I picked up my son and held his stomach tight to my face, and advanced through the bitter gust to our sacred destination.

After Eli and the Elks Lodge, we visited the Queens museum and then drove ever so slowly across traffic-choked Roosevelt Avenue for lunch with Jocelyn De Los Santos and her baby Celestine (see picture). Jocelyn was a generous, cheerful and loving host.

Oh, mighty borough of Queens, birthplace of Theo, we love your grit, your social fabric, your urban charms!