I only knew the neighborhood from visiting friends and by its proximity to Central Park, where I had been just a handful of times. Getting to the park, if you lived in farthest Queens, was an unpleasant ordeal involving hours in traffic on the bridge, or so it seemed when I was eight, and then circling midtown like a lost pigeon for twice as long in order to find a parking spot. (There was the subway, of course, which I used every day when attending high school in The City, but we had an unspoken rule that major entertainment excursions could not involve public transportation. Otherwise we would never have a reason to move the '67 Chevy from its home in the lot behind the deli.) The sight of beautiful, shady green trees in Central Park evokes, to this day, the smell of stale bologna sandwiches mixed with a sensation of burning vinyl on the back of my thighs from a car seat that baked too long in the curbside sun.
My last experience of the park prior to moving across the river was when I got lost en route to meet friends at the Delacorte Theater one Saturday at 5AM. That summer, in order to keep your credentials as a hip, geeky New Yorker, you had to wait on line for hours in the blistering sun to get tickets to see Patrick Stewart in "The Tempest." Too proud and foolish to admit I didn't really know where the Delacorte Theater was, I entered the park from the east side instead of the west and wandered around in the dark for an hour, sure I would become a headline in the Post: "Stupidest woman in New York killed before dawn." A jogger who was probably more afraid of me, panicked and covered in dew, than I of him, led me the across the Ramble to the far shore, where the line was already a hundred deep. We wilted on the steaming concrete path until 1PM and were among the last to get tickets; if we hadn't, my headline fantasy would have been a better alternative to the wrath of my friends.