I am more street food connoisseur than street art aficionado. That didn’t keep me from jumping on the Banksy bandwagon though. No, I was not fortunate enough to purchase a $60 “spray art” canvas in Central Park. When I read on Monday that the British street artist had put up a piece in Queens as part of his monthlong New York City residency I hastened to a block of 69th Street in Woodside’s Little Manila not far from the rumbling 7 train. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the crowd of camera toting street art fans had any idea they were standing at the epicenter of ethnic food in New York City.
“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” it read in Banksy’s signature stenciled script. Well, almost, that last word was cheekily in the process of being obliterated by an old-timey looking character. (That’s a quote from the film Gladiator, by the way.) Having partaken of some culture in the form of art—and Instagrammed, Tweeted and Facebooked it—I took off in search of food culture.
Filipino came to mind first, but I decided to get Thai instead. Sripraphai was nearby, but I seldom dine at there these days. What was once a single storefront now stretches across three, a Banksy-like level of fame in its own way. Don’t get me wrong the food’s still good, it’s just that I much prefer nearby Thailand’s Center Point. It’s a homier operation with a more or less constantly changing multihued chalkboard of specials. From these I chose spare ribs in spicy soup ($9.95).
And then came the inevitable question, “Do you want it spicy?” “No, not Thai spicy,” I started to explain. “So you want it mild?”, the waitress asked. Now I was in a panic, surely I’d been pegged as white man who would now receive a dumbed down version of tom zap ka dook moo. “No, no, no,” I exclaimed, “Make it like you would back home.” And then I remembered a phrase Andy Ricker taught me, “Tham Thai Thai noi khrap,”or “Make it as you would for a Thai person.
“This is Thai homestyle,” the waitress said as she placed the bowl of soup before me. Several meaty ribs that had been cooked to spoon tender softness floated in the galangal and kaffir lime leaf scented broth. Dried chilies and a few fresh ones gave it just the right amount of heat. As I gnawed on the cartilage and inhaled the soups vapors I felt glad to live and eat in Queens.
On the way home I swung by the Banksy. Another would be artist had piggybacked on British street art icon’s fame. The word eternity has been blacked out, the work defaced by a character that goes by the name, Problem Child NYC. I’ll leave it to those more well-versed in art to discuss whether the black scrawl enhanced the piece or not. I’ve more important things to consider, like where does Banksy eat when he’s in Queens. I hear he’s partial to pizza. Banksy if you’re reading this I wholeheartedly recommend the pesto slice from Dani’s House of Pizza.