Professional musician Natalia “Saw Lady” Paruz has lived in Astoria since the early 1990s, captivated by the friendly community and easy access to Manhattan.
“Queens has a home feel, like a cocoon,” Paruz says, noting that many houses in her neighborhood have yards full of tomatoes and flowers. “I enjoy the tranquility of my quiet block, together with the immense energy of the city.”
The artist has played her unique instrument—the musical saw—on many movie soundtracks and at countless cultural venues, including Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and Lincoln Center. She also showcases her work online at SawLady.com. “Playing the saw has a poetic meaning as well as a musical one, showing that everything in life has a destructive side as well as a creative one,” she says. “It’s your choice which one to use.
—by Jeanne O’Brien Coffey
“I have lots of opportunities to perform and create here in Astoria, with support from the neighborhood,” Paruz says. “I love summer concerts at Athens Square (30 Ave. btwn. 29 St. and 30 St.) and at Astoria Park (19 St. btwn. Astoria Park S. and Ditmars Blvd.), where you can see the impressive Hell Gate Bridge and the Triborough Bridge. You get a real community feel of people enjoying music together, and both are free.”
“We have amazing food stores, particularly Mediterranean ones like Titan Foods. I’m partial to the wide variety of olives there. We also have a huge variety of farm-to-store produce at places like Elliniki Agora. The owner of the store actually grows a lot of the produce in the store on their own farm.”
“The Museum of the Moving Image is fun. Changing exhibitions feature movie memorabilia, as well as educational demonstrations of how movies are made.” Not far from Astoria, in Long Island City, is another favorite cultural hub of Paruz’s: The Noguchi Museum, dedicated to the art of Isamu Noguchi, who created scenery for the Martha Graham Dance company. It includes a Japanese rock garden where concerts are sometimes held.
“Next door is Socrates Sculpture Park, a cool outdoor museum right on the river with changing exhibits by contemporary artists. It’s fun meeting the artists as they install their works.”
“The back roads behind houses in Astoria connect people’s garages and backyards, and they have the feel of a country lane. It’s fun walking there rather than on the street. I also love walking the historic streets of Old Astoria (12th and 14th streets), to look at the Victorian mansions.”