As a New Yorker, you spend a lot of your time not acting like a tourist: not going where tourists go (Rockefeller Center), not wearing what tourists wear (fanny packs), and not doing what tourists do (waddling in slow-moving, sidewalk-clogging herds that suddenly halt for no discernible reason). Yet one of the great joys of living here is that we can all be tourists, all the time. A current ad campaign for Delta dangles far-flung destinations with the tagline “Cheat on New York.” But the thing is, you don’t need to leave the city to do that. You can cheat on New York with New York.
Just grab a map. Clear a weekend. Catch a subway. Spend Friday night at the Bum Bum Bar in Jackson Heights, watching the salsa-flavored drag show, then spend Saturday night at Zodiac in Astoria, a Greek restaurant with a live orchestra and a packed crowd, some in sneakers and some in full ball gowns. On Sunday morning, head to East New York to the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church, where the Reverend Hezekiah Walker leads his Grammy-winning gospel choir, or tour the Old Stone House, a 1699 restored Dutch farmhouse in south Park Slope that once served as the clubhouse for the Brooklyn Superbas, later renamed the Dodgers. Or go see a cockfight in Williamsburg (yes, there is one; no, we won’t tell you where it is). Or go to the speakeasy bowling alley in a rowhouse in Ridgewood. Or drink a beer and buy some bait at Boat Livery, a bar and boat-rental place on a pier in City Island, in the Bronx. Or take in a show at the Project Room, an art collective in an abandoned coal silo in Gowanus. Or eat a puffy, guava-paste-filled Colombian pastry at Country Donuts on Staten Island. Or go to the Troll Museum on the Lower East Side (just make sure to call ahead for an appointment). Or head to Coney Island Creek for the graveyard of abandoned ships, including the rusted remains of a yellow submarine built by a Brooklyn Navy Yard shipfitter in the sixties, who hoped to use it to find the lost treasure of the sunken Andrea Doria. (The sub listed severely on its launch and was abandoned.) New York has always been stuffed with these kinds of secret destinations, but you used to have to know someone who knew someone to find them—people like my friend who frequents the family-style bathhouse in Brighton Beach where they beat you with hot oak branches. Now all you need is a Website like Chowhound or forgotten-ny.com. Or Google, and a good imagination. And a free weekend. And the willingness to venture beyond your comfy ten-block radius.