It’s been a rough month. But I think I’m ready to come out of hiding. Reasons for hunkering down are largely beside the point.

And now, a scene.

Platinum Gym: a family-owned sweat palace populated largely by what appear to be bodybuilders of the former Soviet republics. Our heroine is doing pull-ups, wiggling excitedly between sets to an infectious pop number. She is marveling at a lissome lifter when she realizes that he is no longer kicking his leg to his forehead; he is staring at the pull-up bar, then at her, then at the pull-up bar, then furrowing his brow, and then fixing his gaze, again, on her.

Gym dude:

Hey, girl. I, uh, I wanted to say …

She smiles nervously, as is her wont. Just see what happens: It can’t be as bad as the time another regular mumbled through a discourse on the evils of Google Toolbar before asking her for a drink.

GD:

… you’re beautiful. But it’s not just, you’re not just beautiful. It’s that you work at it. You’re here, what—

TJ:

Oh, yeah, I come five or six days a week, blow off some steam.

GD:

Yeah! Blow off some steam! I’m K—-, and you’re?

TJ:

TJ, good to meet you K—-. And thanks, I, um, appreciate it?

He smiles and starts mumbling something again, and she knows that she should be annoyed, that he’s penetrating the little bubble of herself and the time she’s created when she never has to think about her husband or cleaning or making dinner or those damn cats, those fucking cats. But it’s not always about hormones and gonads and the ceaseless beating of flesh on flesh; sometimes it’s just nice, right when you feel farthest from the world and everything you wanted, to be reminded that there are others going through the motions, making the effort, trying to connect when it’s easy enough to make it through the day with no more contact than a rapid-fire coffee order or an exhausted “Excuse me!” yelped in the crush for the rush-hour train. Only connect, only connect.

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It doesn’t have the cachet of Astoria and it lacks the gritty appeal of the LIC arts scene, but for my buck, I couldn’t pick a better place in Queens than Rego Park.

Other residents (and real estate agents) highlight its proximity to Forest Hills (the fillet of Queens!), the easy commute to Manhattan (30 minutes door to door!), and the low crime rate (a 40% drop in robberies in the past year!). But for me? It’s the humble character of the neighborhood and the kaleidoscope of culture shifting and glittering on 63rd Drive, on Queens Boulevard, along Yellowstone and Woodhaven.

The gym I go to is locally owned, rather than an outpost of the overpriced Bally’s or New York Sports Club (also, its employees are always quick with a friendly greeting, initially winning me over by exclaiming, “Is named Platinum — better than Gold!”). Within a 15-minute walk from my apartment, I can buy Colombian chicken, find Thums-Up cola, get supplies to celebrate Chinese New Year, hum along to old Bollywood tunes at a Subway franchised by a chipper young fellow from Indonesia, delight in a knish, or procure a neon menora. And on balmy summer days, or even into crisp fall evenings, there’s a certain corner on which a group of five or six old men invariably play backgammon, kids occasionally peering over their shoulders to help them strategize.

It’s a cool, refreshingly authentic place to live when it seems everyone is urging us to consider Williamsburg or Park Slope, both dripping with irony and artifice and endless posturing about who has the best what. Sure, sometimes it means I miss a hip indie concert, and there’s not much of a nightlife (other than Wiggles!), but at least I don’t have to fight for groceries amongst a million tiny men wearing black eyeliner, flannels, and ever-tighter jeans.