Monday, January 16, 2012

A Long Walk to White Castle

Since yesterday was Sunday and I had some free time, I decided to treat myself to some delicious White Castle cheeseburgers and take a walk to the nearest White Castle, or at least the nearest White Castle in a good neighborhood, and walk to the one on the corner of Bell Boulevard and Northern Boulevard here in Northern Queens.

Each way was a three-or-four mile walk, and the long walk would assuage some of the guilt of eating the delicious White Castle burgers. I’ve been sick with a cold and so I haven’t been to the gym lately.

Queens can be a confusing jumble of streets, and I thought it would be better to take the back streets and learn my way around rather than simply walk down Northern Boulevard. I had driven down Northern Boulevard before so I had seen everything there was to see there between my street and the restaurant.

Along the route I often came across plots of land where once had stood a tasteful one-family home but was not occupied by a garish, oversized home replete with faux opulence that housed one or two or even more families. These “McMansions” are a blight everywhere they pop up and New York hasn’t yet found a solution to stopping them. It’s evidence that people are self deluded. If you live in Bayside, Queens, you are not an Italian count or, famous fashion designer, or oil magnate, and your attempts to make your house resemble a Mediterranean villa come to nothing when you live within walking distance of a White Castle. These McMansion owners only make themselves look foolish and their neighborhoods look ugly, but most seem not to care.

Some would argue that anyone who would walk four miles to a White Castle has no right to dictate taste, but you’re wrong. The White Castle at Bell and Northern Boulevards in Queens is in a commercial district and does not stand out as an ugly duckling among its neighbors. On the contrary, it’s a beacon of majesty among the more humdrum establishments.

I don’t know what there is to be done about the McMansion epidemic sweeping New York and the nation. Zoning laws can only do so much. The housing bust of 2008 slowed their construction to a certain degree, but once the housing market returns, what is to stop them from coming back? You can’t legislate taste and decency. It’s a sign that our ever-fracturing country may be slipping into the twilight of mediocrity.

Here’s hoping that future generations will care more about their cities and neighbors.

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