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GOING THE DISTANCE
"DID YOU GROW UP IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, ASTORIA, WOODSIDE, QUEENS?"
THE QUEENS SITE: Where my niece found me again after 40 years.
"Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything."
"Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being."
You know from reading "My Generation, the story about how my niece, Denise Biondo-Kees happened to find me again, after losing touch with me for forty years. It was an event of fortuitous happenstance. This article is about the website, where serendipity led Denise and me to be reunited. It's been emotionally gratifying to reunite with Denise. Denise's dad, Stevie Biondo, was my big brother and "My Mentor" as an older biker. I'd like to mention that Stevie's younger brother, Patty Boy (Pasquale) Biondo (now deceased), was also like an older brother to me. Both of my Biondo brothers taught me different things, that I've incorporated into my own personality and life. I've absorbed much from both of them. I haven't written about Patty Boy, but he taught me how important it was to be tough. It was important to me to recapture this part of my younger life, to reflect on it. This Facebook page enabled that recapturing of memories long lost, or rendered murky by the fog of time.
Photo by Genghis
DENISE THE LAST TIME I SAW HER: That's Denise on the right, with her brother and me, 1974.
The name of this Facebook website is "Did You Grow Up In Jackson Heights, Astoria, Woodside, Queens?" Please note: You have to have a Facebook page in order to see the site. This site that is devoted to the nostalgic facet of people's personalities, is like many of these Facebook sites dedicated to neighborhoods, cities and regions of the world. You could say that sites like these are trafficking in nostalgia, and as Terrence Malick so accurately noted---nostalgia is a worthy drug. It is addictive, but in a benevolent way.
When I joined this website four months ago, I thought it would be a fun thing to delve into the ins and outs of my old hometown of Jackson Heights, and indeed, it has been fun. I discovered however, that there there was a deeper significance to my participation in this site. I don't want to bang the Kunta Kinte drums regarding "roots," but there is definitely something to that. People are like the top of a tree. The older the tree grows, the more the top of the tree distances itself, from its roots. As far as I'm concerned, the emotion of nostalgia, is a subconscious effort by people to be able to see their roots, once again.
During my four months of contributing to this site, I unearthed a newfound love for my old haunts in Jackson Heights and in all the places I had experiences in, not only in Queens, but in all of the areas that formed part of the platform that supported my growing up. We are all a product of our upbringing, and the physical locations where my experiences took place, constituted the framework upon which my life's philosophies flourished. That platform or framework though---is two-tiered. The second tier of the platform that supported my formative years in Queens, consists of the people of my community. And a real community we were, even if we didn't quite get it in those days. These very same people, can be found at this website. It wouldn't be wrong to say that we at this website, are a community, present-tense.
NORTHERN BLVD IN YE OLDEN DAYZ: Played a huge role in my Queens life.
As the weeks rolled on and my participation in this website grew, so did the circle of people who knew me in Queens, or knew my family, burgeoned. It was like witnessing a spider spin her web, with an incrementally increasing interlacing of more and more people, some connected by common experiences in commonly frequented places, alone. Some people never met each other, but they had mutual friends or acquaintances. We all had Mutual Places. Businesses like PIzza Sam or the White Castle in Jackson Heights play a big role in the underlying feeling of kinship, at the site, because we'd all been there, done that.
New memories of old memories lost, came to the fore. With increased contact with others in the website, the acuity of my remembrance of my old life in Queens, and of Queens itself, became sharper and more well-rounded. In short, it's been wonderful experience. Part of my fascination has been stoked by discoveries I've made while at the site. In scouring the internet for old pictures to post at the site, I've found wonderful pictures of my old stomping grounds.
PIZZA SAM 1960s: I bought whole pepperoni pies from Sam--and finished 'em by myself.
Recently, Camille Speca, who is the creator and webmaster of "Did You Grow Up In Jackson Heights, Astoria, Woodside, Queens?" asked me if I would like to help by becoming an administrator of the site. I happily accepted. It's been a learning experience, and a Joyful Nostalgic Ride. In the end, it is fun. A great part of the fun comes with the realization, that there is a real sense of community at the site. It's more than 3,500 members are spread all over the world. Yet, when we visit the site, we're right back where we came from---in our old neighborhoods, blocks and familiar establishments. When we're at the site, it's like having access to a Star Trek transporter, at the ready. I know, "Beam me up, Scottie, back to the 'hood." It's quite a phenomenon. Check out the website. You'll find it interesting. Later.