As a little boy in Japan, I explored the world by spinning the globe and landing my finger on a random location. I then imagined what it would be like to live there.
Now, as a big boy in New York, I do the same using Google Maps. Yesterday, I was aimlessly flying above Queens and saw a restaurant at an odd location. What is wonderful about Google Maps is that tapping it eliminates the need to imagine. I can see what goes on there: a festive Mexican backyard party.
Everything is in Spanish, so I had to enlist my Spanish-speaking Instagram friend @dan.bukit as a tour guide. According to Google, the place is open only on Sundays, but I wasn’t sure if it would be open this Labor Day weekend. Luckily, their Instagram Story said “Mañana.” We invited my friend Pete who lives a few blocks from there. Our mission to the Mexican backyard was on.
While on the subway to Queens, a woman approached me and said she recognized me from Instagram. When she told me her Instagram handle, @gabbynor, I recognized her too. In the ’90s, I thought the Internet was magical, but now I feel real life is magical. Just meeting a virtual friend for a few minutes makes such a big difference. Thereafter, chatting online feels much more real. It’s like opening an iPhone box; sure, the box itself is beautiful, but it’s good to know that there is actually a phone in it.
When we arrived at the location, there was no sign on the street. It’s just someone’s house. The only reason we could confidently trespass this property was that a large group of lively Mexicans were walking into it.
Sure enough, the backyard party I saw on Google Maps appeared as we reached the back. About a third of the area was carved out as a kitchen. It’s a serious operation, not some dad setting up a BBQ grill. I see the large cauldron where carnitas must be simmering. The garage is filled with kitchen equipment. I was relieved to find that they speak English, and the host, a little boy on a tricycle, is a native English speaker.
The food and drinks were fantastic, but above all, I truly enjoyed the vibe. I felt like a random Mexican family invited us to their weekend party.
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