By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Wednesday, 5:05 a.m.: There's a lamb chop hanging from my mouth, and for nearly two hours, during the middle of the night, during the middle of the week, restless Astorians have been showering each other with hundreds of single dollar bills. Welcome to Queens' oldest Greek nightclub, the GRECIAN CAVE (31-11 Broadway, Queens, 718-274-2227). Earlier that night, 10:30 p.m.: My last night living in Astoria. My last call. Where shall I toast farewell? I brave the plastic stone tunnel toward the Grecian Cave, but the place is empty. Big George, the manager, says things don't start until 3 a.m.; then come the singing girls, flower petals, and the cash. I don't believe him.
10:31 p.m.: Now what?
11:05 p.m.: "Don't be a pussy," says Irish Joe, pushing a "Brain Hemorrhage" ($5)peach schnapps and Bailey's, bloody with grenadinemy way at FASHION LOUNGE (32-16 Steinway, Queens, 718-777-8260), where the entrance is shaped like a camera lens. Girls with tight jeans and teased bangs sit in oversized booths, while young boys with faint mustaches bob heads as they mouth lyrics to REALLY FUCKING LOUD club-hop, sped up. "Thug Passion" ($7) is the drink hereAlizé and Hennessey. Falls like tropical sugar, on ice. The redheaded boy sitting next to me says it tastes even better if you puff out your chest, then watch yourself sip big in the bright mirrors.
1:30 a.m.: Dizzy. I still need to pack.
1:55 a.m.: Constellations are painted against the sky blue ceiling of PLATO'S CLUB (31-84 33rd Street, Queens, 718-726-5580), a Greek-to-the-bone rock bar, where everyone knows everyoneexcept me. Vergina, the only Greek beer without an expiration date ($6 on weekends, $5 on weekdays), washes the thug juice away. The slick, gelled, black T-shirt crowd barks out lyrics to "All Along the Watchtower," in Greek. And when things really start to move, Christina the barmaid grabs a handful of cocktail napkins and throws them toward the star-studded ceiling like confetti. Am I really ready to leave this?
5:00 a.m.: Back at the Cave. Hades is here, and nymphs in slinky red dresses toss tinfoil saucers (with flower petals inside) like discuses. Breaking plates is now banned for insurance reasons, so the tradition had to be tweaked a little. The dancefloor is slippery with cheap champagne, and a busboy in a bow tie sweeps the night's memories into small wet piles of flower petals and dollar bills for the weary band. My snifter of Metaxa ($12) (a Greek brandy made with muscat wine and anise) is long empty, and my mouth feels like a bundle of black licorice. Today, I'm moving. Did I make a mistake? Oh, Astoria. How I shall miss you.
5:04 a.m.: You gonna eat that lamb chop?