30 awesome things to do in Astoria, Queens

1. Hanging out at my friend Bill’s place, drinking beer and playing Call of Duty online multiplayer until like two in the morning.

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2. At like two or two-thirty, throwing out the question, “Do you want to get something to eat?” before opening up the Seamless App and realizing that all of the restaurants that you want to buy food from closed at like ten.

3. Remembering, wait a second, Bel Aire diner on 21st Street is open 24 hours. Let’s just order from there.

4. You realize that you really want a burger and fries, but doesn’t diner food always taste a little weird in a take-out container? Not weird, bad necessarily, but not great, not like sitting at the diner, getting a fresh burger. It’s the fries, yeah, they’ve got to be crisp. They can’t sit there steaming in a to-go container, everything gets all soggy. Rhe lettuce and tomato on the burger, that gets soggy too. You guys are really stoned and this food should at least hit some of the right buttons.

5. Bill says, “Let’s just go to the diner. I mean, it’s open all night.” And you’re like, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s do it.”

6. And then you sit around for like two more hours, playing some more video games, but your fingers hurt, you’ve lost that video game spark, and you’re just kind of mindlessly moving through the maps, not really making any contribution to the team kill count, passing Bill’s little pipe back and forth.

7. It’s the same with the pot. It’s like, smoke all you want, at this point in the night it’s not doing anything, you’re not getting any higher. It’s just making that metallic taste in the sides of your mouth more pronounced.

8. You’re like, “Hey Bill, weren’t we going to go to the diner?”

9. And at this point, you don’t even want to go anymore. It’s close to four-thirty, the sooner you get to bed, the sooner you can get up tomorrow and start nursing that buzzing hangover already starting to give birth at the sides of your head, the one that’ll insist on you streaming all of your favorite Netflix shows while you lie stunned on the couch, while simultaneously making it impossible to really absorb or digest what’s happening on screen. So while yes, you’ll technically be able to say you watched all of House of Cards season two, you won’t really remember what happened, or who did what, and when everyone talks about it at work, you’ll just try your best not to look confused.

10. But Bill is finally like, “Nah man, we’re going. Let’s go.” And he gets his coat on and you’re like, OK, I guess we’re going.

11. Bel Aire diner is much farther away than you remember, and it’s always pretty depressing walking this west of Broadway past one or two in the morning. That buzz of life and activity that defines your mental definition of Astoria, you question whether it ever existed in the first place as you gaze out at the desolate parking lot on the corner of 21st and Broadway, the Rite Aid, the Post Office. What happened to the White Castle?

12. But you go inside and, seriously, you didn’t expect it to be this crowded. Where are all of these people coming from? Why doesn’t anybody else look as dead as you feel on the inside right now?

13. They seat you right away and, even though you knew you just wanted a burger, this menu is huge, and maybe you want a milkshake, or a waffle, or some fried calamari.

14. You ask the waiter for just another minute, and he disappears for twenty. Actually getting food feels like an eternity. You have all the time in the world to mull over what you’ll order.

15. And when the waiter finally shows back up, you surprise even yourself when the words, “I’ll have a Monte Christo please, and a Coke,” come out of your mouth.

16. When Bill says, “What’s the Monte Christo?” you don’t even remember, and the waiter already took the menu away, but it must have looked really tasty.

17. And while the walking to the diner took forever, and the ordering took half a lifetime, the food shows up two and a half minutes later. It’s the Monte Christo. It’s French toasted challah topped with hot turkey and ham covered in melted Swiss. The waiter gives you a little monkey dish of butter and maple syrup, again, you had no idea, but you think, whatever man, he gave it to me for a reason.

18. And then you blink and you’re walking out of the diner, only having the vaguest idea of having devoured something delicious, the corners of your lips coated with the residual stick of mapley deliciousness.

19. And then you blink again and you’re back at your place, you’re lying in your bed trying to go to sleep but, even though you couldn’t keep your eyes open toward the end of the night at Bill’s, now everything’s kind of buzzing. But it’s not a buzz, buzzing, it’s like just enough of a buzz to keep you up. And the sun’s starting to come up and that’s not helping you drift off either. All you’re thinking about is how you overdid it, how you were looking so forward to this weekend but now it’s over, and tomorrow’s shot, and maybe some of Monday too.

20. You wake up in the morning and the hangover is soul shattering.

21. There’s nothing in the fridge. You place a takeout order to Brooklyn Bagel, and the guy has you on hold for like fifteen minutes. You know that this is only the tip of the waiting-around iceberg here. You’re on the phone, lying in your own misery, while the rest of Astoria is out and about, they’re all awake, they’re all currently standing on line at Brooklyn Bagel. They take the priority, OK, take out calls for lazy assholes too hungover to put on a pair of pants, they’ve got to wait.

22. You order your two everything bagels with bacon egg and cheddar, you’re half gallon of Tropicana Some Pulp OJ, and no, you’re not being obnoxiously over-specific, it’s the take out guy. Everything you order has at least two or three follow-up questions. Cheese: what kind? OJ: what size? How much pulp?

23. And what time is it anyway? Twelve-thirty? That’s actually not too bad. Maybe some of Sunday night can still be salvaged here. I mean, it’s still kind of late. You’re not going to go running in Astoria Park or anything, but maybe drinks later at The Strand? I’m just saying, it’s not like it’s three, or four. Twelve-thirty, you can still get breakfast at twelve-thirty.

24. And then the food finally shows up, you hadn’t anticipated the shame of having to confront another human being in your current state, really hung over, disheveled, desperate for food. All while this other person is, what, he’s on a bike delivering the food that you couldn’t get yourself to get dressed and wait on line for like everyone else? Maybe if you just give him a big tip, like a seven or eight dollar tip, maybe he won’t think you’re such a loser. He must party every once in a while, right? You guys are just on different schedules. Just like an eight or nine dollar tip.

25. The food, it’s great, but it’s just like your grandmother always said when you were a little kid, that thing about your eyes being bigger than your stomach. Because yeah, you were really hungry, and sure, two bagels seemed like a good idea at a time. But two bites into that second sandwich and it’s obvious the extra money that you’ve wasted. Maybe you’ll eat it later, but probably not. More than likely it’s going to sit there for the rest of the day, a cautionary tale, a reminder when you go to order dinner that, hey man, just take it easy OK? Maybe you only need four tacos from Los Portales, OK, not eight. That’s just excessive.

26. And when Bill calls you up at four and you’re like, “Bill, did you just get up?” and he’s like, “Yeah man, when did you get up?” you don’t have to be honest, you can just say that you don’t remember. But take a look, OK, that’s a guy who doesn’t have his shit together, OK, you can’t sleep until four in the afternoon, man, this isn’t college, all right, this shit isn’t cute when you’re almost thirty.

27. You’re starting to feel better about yourself, but you remember all of that pot Bill bought yesterday, how you guys barely made a dent last night, even though you just kept smoking, over and over again, you can still feel it on the back of your throat.

28. “Hey Bill, you want to get together and watch some House of Cards?”

29. “Yeah man, I’ve still got all of that pot. You want to grab some beers and come over?”

30. Bingo. And then you head over to Bill’s for a nice, easy Sunday. Nothing crazy, nothing like last night. Maybe just Corona, you know, nothing crazy. And bring the bagel. Someone’ll eat it. Just enjoy it man, you’re still young, just put on a clean pair of pants and go to Bill’s. And fucking House of Cards man, that show is the fucking best, you gotta savor that shit, because you know you’re going to blow through, if not all thirteen episodes, at least six, at least a solid six or seven hours of once-a-year, quality TV.

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