It’s so hard to capture Queens in the 80s for me. There are so many different emotions all wrapped up into one geography, that I can feel it and re-live it, but its hard to describe it. But this movie did a good job with catching some of the more visceral elements and certainly how when you live there, it’s your whole world as a teenager.
It’s funny. I liked that Shia kid in every other movie I’ve seen, but in this one, I couldn’t get down with him being from Queens. He just doesn’t have the affect.
What’s weird for me is I spent my whole life waiting to escape it. And now that I have, and will never go back, I realize how much it is an essential part of me. It keeps me grounded in the midst of all that we’ve achieved and earned. Because no matter what I buy, or where I go, or who I work for, I’ll always be that kid who couldn’t afford a Champion sweatshirt, much less a triple goose down jacket. And when you’re from Queens, you know how much those things meant to you, even after your classmates got jumped and their jackets ripped off.
There were some really, really sweet moments there. For a few years, when I was just old enough that I wasn’t really traveling off that far off the block, I had everything I needed. Friends, sports, my own hoop and a long driveway to play wiffleball in. My first boyfriend was a kid from across the street who I grew up fighting with, who I later dated. And then dated on and off again for a few years when no one knew.
It’s a place where our schoolyard was a concrete lot we weren’t allowed to run in, and the corner by the flagpole was expressly reserved for the 8th graders. I remember standing there with my friends. We were the smart kids, and it was okay for us to be that with the cool kids, because we all grew up together, jointly terrorized by a reign of nuns and teachers who banged on their desks with blocks. The cool kids would cross Queens Boulevard, but they’d bring back candy to us smart kids, who weren’t allowed by our parents. And we actually listened.
It’s a place where you had to be a bit tough, because you had to know where to go and who to avoid. You had to be able to talk some serious trash, and be ready to back it up. I never had to, but that was probably because I was the tallest kid until the 7th grade.
It was a confusing place, a hard place, without a lot of natural space or personal space. It was a place of concrete and cracked sidewalks that you could ride your skateboard over. And later your bmx, to get some air.
It’s where I struggled through my teen years, trying to grow up as quick as possible and get the hell out. And its where I returned to, through college and grad school.
As I sit here, writing on a computer I couldn’t afford back then, in my apartment in Manhattan, it is easy for me to remember those times. Because they were hard and confusing. But they were also formative and wonderful. Above all, they are what has made me into the person I am today.
So when I sit across the table from you, and discuss the merits of a Mercedes vs. a BMW vs. and Audi, know that I am still that kid from Queens, who can see the concrete in front of her and listen to the sounds of the sirens, traffic and airplanes.