As the holidays approached, there were some memorable moments in Queens.
First and foremost, we must note the ingenuity of two entrepreneurs who rented the upstairs floor of a house in Elmhurst and converted the space into 10 separate sleeping stalls. These Spartan surroundings were not for the homeless. They were Airbnb pads for what we suspect were inveterate consumers who flew into our airports to shop at Queens Center Mall. How much loot the holiday customers could pack into each little room is another question.
The unseasonably warm weather has been a downer for shoppers, who have avoided the borough’s emporiums with thoughts of Florida North dancing in their heads. Merchants are facing stiff competition from big online marketers, which has pressured UPS to hire extra drivers.
Watch the next UPS driver—he/she in seasonally appropriate shorts will be so loaded down with parcels that you’ll be ready to ask Santa to authorize some serious overtime for his helper and high-octane gas for his mechanical reindeer.
As for the post office, the lines are not what they used to be. But tempers still fray when the chirpy woman standing at the window with her two small children wants to stage a family intervention to decide on stamps for this year’s Christmas cards.
For the Queens residents who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, appropriately known as SAD, there is a bit of light at the end of the month to usher in Christmas. On Dec. 22 the winter solstice welcomes the rebirth of the sun on the shortest day of the year. This marks the return of longer days, when sunlight begins creeping back by minutes per day.
Counting the minutes in an hourglass might make for a pyrrhic victory against the winter doldrums.
In the case of Cadillac Man, Queens’ best known man of the streets, a permanent home has chased away his blues.
After 21 years of living under a viaduct at the Hell Gate Bridge and in St. Michael’s Cemetery, the 65-year-old homeless vet landed a 12th floor flat for seniors in his beloved Astoria this month.
In 2005 the TimesLedger Newspapers introduced Cadillac Man to readers in a series of stories that led to Esquire Magazine publishing some of his writings. His 2009 memoir “Land of Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets” inspired actor Richard Gere, who played a homeless man in the movie “Time Out of Mind.”
“Now I’ll be able to sleep without sleeping with one eye open and when I close my eyes for the last time, I’ll be closing them here in Astoria,” he said as his settled into his new digs.