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Astoria to Alphabet City: Escape from the N/Q trains

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I lived in Astoria for a year. Whenever I left Manhattan heading home to Astoria, I always kept in mind the N/Q has an expiration time—midnight.

Since I’m really unfamiliar with buses, the N/Q was my only option -- but an unreliable one at that.

Late at night the Q would stop running past the last stop in Manhattan, 57th and 7th, while the N would run in its place. They say it comes every 20 minutes, but that 20 minutes feels like a lifetime—especially at 3 AM on a Friday night.

I remember several occasions when that “20 minutes” was actually more like 40 or 45 minutes. Every once in a while, the N/Q doesn’t even go to Queens to service the trains.

Then, I would have to take the 7 to Queensboro Plaza to catch an N train that would be just running back and forth just in Queens or a shuttle bus instead. It was a nightmare.

Sure, I could’ve hung out more in Astoria, but have you ever gone out in Astoria? The nightlife is limited to two options: the biergartens  (which are, admittedly, great and one was close to me) or the bass-pumping clubs where the men’s shirts are a little too tight and you can smell the steroids a mile away. 

If I was in the mood for something a little in between, Astoria didn’t give me that option.

If I chose to stay out after class with my friends, the Q midnight deadline loomed over me the same way I imagine Cinderella thought about her carriage. It was either go home early or dread taking the 7 to the Queensborough stop then switching back to the N/Q, which meant that I had to go from Manhattan to a different part of Queens and then back to Astoria.

During the day,  the N/Q wasn’t so bad. Well, I imagine it wouldn’t be bad, if you didn’t have to commute an hour and 10 minutes each way to TriBeCa, where I go to New York Law School.

That train has its perks, though, like its close proximity to the taco trucks (they were just one stop away from me). I would get off on 30th Ave and 31st St., get some cheap and delicious tacos, and walk back to my apartment on Steinway between Ditmars and 30th Ave.

The taco trucks weren’t the only good food option. Steinway felt like a small-town with lots of ethnic food or if I felt homesick for Long Island, jumbo, all-service, big-menu restaurants like The Grand Café line 30th Ave.

If you like space -- you know, square footage -- Astoria should be your first option. I shared a three-bedroom apartment, which was more like an entire floor, with a friend and a friend of a friend.

We never used our giant kitchen, which was so well ventilated that we turned it into our personal smoking room.

When our lease was up,  a friend from law school asked me to move in with him in a two-bedroom on Avenue C and 12th. In Alphabet City, you’re lucky to get a full-size fridge. I quickly realized I had lived in a kingdom.

The space is a small tradeoff, especially for a guy who is notoriously bad at picking places to eat. In Alphabet City, you can just point to a restaurant and it’s likely that it’ll be a good option.

I can walk to well-known places, like Crif Dogs or Artichoke, which are within walking distance, and it’s easy to discover someplace new.

The Alphabet City Beer Co., which is on Ave. C between 6th and 7th, is a beer geek’s Wal-Mart. If you walk all the way to the back, you’ll discover a dungeon-like sitting area with a communal table or over-sized chairs if you’re not into sitting next to random people.

Finnerty’s on 13th and 2nd Ave is a great bar. It’s a San Francisco sports bar, but I suppose no one likes San Francisco, so I usually get the bar to myself.

When I’m in the mood for a good crowd, I head over to No Malice Palace on 3rd and Avenue B. To be honest, they play mostly ’90s hip-hop, and the dance floor is usually too crowded to dance, but it’s a great place to end the night. Who doesn’t want to listen to “The Thong Song” every once in a while? It’s what we (or at least  I) grew up with.

I’m close to every train line now and the M14 helped end my bus phobiaf (maybe it's because the L train is way too stuffed with hipsters or because the bus stops RIGHT on front of my apartment. If I’m running late, I’m only a $15 cab ride away from TriBeCa.

Back in Astoria, I took a cab twice. The first time, it cost me $35. The second time, it cost me two and a half hours, because the cab driver heard me wrong and drove me to 185th and Broadway instead of 185 Broadway. I didn’t realize until I was headed toward Yankee Stadium where I hopped onto a train downtown. It’s nice to put those days to an end.


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