On cursory examination, such as on one of my drive-by shooting expeditions, where one does not engage with people and local culture, it is easy to dismiss a place or form a very distorted impression. By the time I had toured Astoria by car on a gray, drizzly deadly quiet Sunday, spent time exploring the streets around the Con Edison Power Plant and taken photos of folding chairs on a deserted street, I was already forming an opinion about Astoria. Or, perhaps, it is better said that in finding a bleak street and thinking about a story idea, much as I have had occasions to squeeze my feet into shoes that are too small, my image of Astoria was being jammed into a very narrow mind.
Of course, I have known many young artists who lived in Astoria and called it home. Like anywhere else, I knew that behind closed doors and in restaurants and shops, there were real people with lives, hopes, joys and aspirations. But that would require getting out of my car and meeting some people.
I did plan to eat in a Greek restaurant and had done research. In my pocket, I had names and addresses of two places that were well reviewed, both on Ditmars Boulevard, one of the central arteries of Astoria. So, an interaction with humanity was in the day's plans. I ended up choosing a local favorite, Agnanti on Ditmars Boulevard.
On my last swing down Shore Road flanking Astoria Park on the way to Agnanti I was taken by an extraordinary sight - an Islamic wedding party. Wedding parties being photographed in New York City parks are a common sight.
Here, however, the dominant black clothing theme, the only variants being a white wedding dress and young girl in turquoise on a misty green hillside, was very dramatic and evocative. Certainly worthy enough to stop my car and take a few photos from my window. Although there were those among them that were taking photos with point and shoot cameras, I had a better vantage point and had photos of the entire group.
Come on, don't be so lazy. Get out of the car, run up the hill, give them your card and offer to send them the photos you have taken. This is not an ordinary occasion and they will appreciate the offer.
I got out, strolled across the green lawn and met the party briefly, gave my card and took more photos. I told them that if they contacted me, I would be happy to send them photos. They were very exuberant and asked me to take a few more posed shots. I obliged.
One of the group has since contacted me by email and said there was no rush for the photos. She also commented that she looked over this website and liked it. I'm very glad I met them - my mental images of Astoria will always include the newly married couple and family on the hill. And it will always be another reminder that with a small effort to connect with people or at least stop and look out your car window, it is easy to see that in Astoria, like anywhere else, love is all around :)