The first room I took in Queens was at 136-39 59th Avenue in Flushing. I responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising rooms for $35/night, $220/week or $800 for the month. I didn’t know the area well, so I said I was looking for a room for a few days, with the option to extend if everything worked out. Kevin, the proprietor, responded to my email and said he had a room for me if I took it that evening, so after work, I took the 7 train out to Flushing, the Q20 bus to 58th Avenue and then walked the few blocks to 136-39 59th Avenue.
On my walk towards the room, I noted that the style of the neighborhood was fairly different from most of the ‘hoods I’d been living in: it was a mix of both row houses and single family homes, although most were single family, some with front yards, some with back yards, all arranged in a neat grid, with ample street parking. When I lived in Staten Island I conjectured that it had more freestanding houses than all of the other Boroughs combined, but that was clearly a statement based on ignorance of life outside of Manhattan and the parts of Brooklyn I was used to because I was walking through an oasis of suburban living in the heart of Queens.
When I arrived the door was locked and Kevin was not there and wasn’t answering his phone. I wasn’t sure what to do next when an older white dude, DS, walked up from behind me and asked me if I was looking for Kevin. I said that I was and he told me Kevin notified him about me and he’d let me in. He opened the door and we went up stairs to what was a mostly empty apartment, and an apartment is just what this space was. There was a small kitchen, a table with three chairs, and a single mattress propped against the right wall. There were two rooms to the right, two down the hall to left.
Kevin called in soon after I arrived and he said his little sister would be coming by to setup my bed. A few minutes later Yang arrived. She was actually his cousin, but in his Chinese culture he was responsible for as if she were his real sister and thus she was “his little sister”. I was given a room at the end of the hall on the left side of the apartment. It had two beds and was full of stencils and graphics of Snow White and other girls from Disney cartoons. Aside from DS, there was a man in the other room on the right and there was a woman in the other room on the left side of the apartment.
During my initial wait for Yang and when she was setting up my room, DS and I got to talking and we became fast friends. Over the course of my stay at 136-39 59th, he and I would spend hours smoking cigarettes and sharing stories from our travels. He was in his late 50s or early 60s and had thin, purely white hair, thick, leathery skin red from the sun and piercing, dark blue eyes that exuded both experience and intelligence, as well as more than a bit of mystery. He had grown up in Flushing when it was still mainly Irish, Italians and Jews. He had been an audio engineer, had learned his craft at the Fillmore East and had toured with Hendrix. He had traveled around the world numerous times and had recently come back from Latin America (I think he said Ecuador) where he had been working on telecommunications rollouts to enhance internet connectivity when some type of visa problem brought him into closer contact with the country’s police system than he cared for. He told me he loved baseball because the history of baseball was the history of America and all of the country’s great achievements in civil rights were mirrored in the game he had loved since his childhood. He was smart and quick with a laugh, and both listened and spoke with an earnestness that I have rarely encountered.
I only stayed at 136-39 59th for a few days, as I secured a room for the month in an apartment a few blocks away. On my last night there, two Russian girls showed up late and there was some question as to where they would be sleeping, as I had the only room with two beds that wasn’t occupied. There had been a mix-up regarding their dates, as Kevin hadn’t prepared for their arrival at all. He asked me if I would room with DS so he could lodge them in the room with two beds. That night, Kevin slept in the living room on the mattress that was propped against the wall when I moved in.
I moved out on July 1st and took up residence at 136-11 58th Avenue. DS and I exchanged our contact data (and I gave him the URL to this website) so we could continue sharing stories and speaking of many things.
More Images of 136-39 59th Avenue:
(any of the images link into the full album set)