LONG ISLAND CITY: A Life of Contrast

They had weathered the storm together, all four of them, neighbors in an old tenement building for nearly 20 years. All veteran residents of 9/11 and the blackout of 2003, they had learned from experience that being prepared was always preferable to being without light, without food, without friends, without an exit plan.

Now, it was Sunday evening in Long Island City, Queens, post Irene. And they had all gathered on the rooftop to drink a toast to their own good fortune (for not everyone had emerged unscathed). They reminisced about earlier days—about how they first came to this place; about other neighbors who had come and gone; and about what they might have done if the hurricane had been less generous and taken away their home…and along with it, their view of a city they loved.

LIC Skyscape

Sitting in the fading sunlight and the comfort of their shared memories, they remembered a time when the cityscape had not been so obstructed by the new high rises and luxury condominiums that none of them could ever dream of affording.

And while the seagulls bobbed and dove in the whipping wind, and the old friends took turns venturing guesses as to just how many floors high the newest building would go, edging out still another corner of their precious view, two of the neighbors, a couple, talked about how life in this old building had helped them save to buy a place they could escape to on weekends. A place where the air was sweet and clean and where, weather permitting, they could swim in a spring-fed lake in the evenings and the view from their front porch had not one single building in it. Everyone on that roof was welcome to visit, of course, and yet none of them had so far. For some, leaving the city, even for a weekend, was simply not as important.

Skyscape 2

And yet, for the couple, their little red cottage—the one that had also survived the storm—was a study in contrast to the life they had lived in the city all these years; not better, not worse, just blissfully, wonderfully different. The sensuous roll of the landscape many miles to the north, an echo of a time long ago, maybe 10 years, when they’d first begun to dream of the possibility of living somewhere else….

Permission to link this posting to your web page is freely given. However, all images herein are the exclusive property of the photographer, Ber Murphy, and should not be reproduced or published separately without the photographer’s permission.

All Images Copyright © 2011 – Ber Murphy

About Smallpeace

Michele Karas is a poet, essayist, and longstanding professional copywriter, who currently works for a top-five US book publisher. Her poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, including Tinderbox, THRUSH, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Narrative magazine, among others. Michele holds a BA in Journalism from San Diego State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from CUNY, The City College of New York. Find her on Twitter @small_peace.
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4 Responses to LONG ISLAND CITY: A Life of Contrast

  1. Touch2Touch says:

    A post-hurricane party on the roof, how appropriate! And how happy you all look! Survival will do that for people 🙂

    (Tar Beach — I remember Brooklyn Heights, where less dramatically, on a sunny summer evening we had Liederkranz cheese on black pumpernickel with red onion, chased down with beer — rural life in the city!)

    • Smallpeace says:

      I was in Brooklyn Heights myself for awhile. My first apartment all to myself. Loved it and, at the time, I was certainly on a beer budget. Still more things in common!

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