Cab ride into (my) history

SO I flew back to California from New York last night. Jumped in a cab in midtown, said “American, at Kennedy,” then realized my driver might be a little, ah, unusual, as he headed into Central Park.
“What route are you taking?”
“Through the park, to see the trees and the flowers,” he replied in a heavy Russian accent.
“Yes, and then what?”
We established he wanted to go around the north end of Manhattan and south on the Grand Central/Van Wyck to miss the traffic, I muttered in my best NY accent so he’d know I’m not(really) an out of towner, and we proceed to drive smack into the worst traffic I’ve seen in quite a few years.
Parking lot, major pile-up, and not moving at all would be the phrases that came to mind.
So we did what any good cabbie would do and got onto the local streets, which in this case meant heading through Flushing down Jewel Avenue and into Jamaica, where we could pick up the Van Wyck.
I was really irritated as we crept along–the cabbie had a habit of smiling sweetly, then muttering furiously in Russian–cursing, I thought–under his breath. He also popped the window open a few times to drag on a cigarette.
And the fare kept mounting–this was not going to be a $40 cab ride, not at the rate we were moving.
But then I realized that we were driving through the neighborhoods of my early youth–the immigrant parts of Queens that my grandparents and their friends lived in when I was less than five years old. My mother and I would drive these streets several times a week, and I probably hadn’t been on them for at last twenty years.
They hadn’t changed that much–still green and leafy, with the houses close together, and apartment buildings looming over the little two-families–and still exotic–with Russian, Hebrew, Polish, Korean and Turkish names on the store fronts.
It was a trip–right though the past–evidence sometimes you can go back, at least for a car ride.
(And yeah, my tab with the cab was $60–still cheaper than the $80 I was afraid I’d have to pay,but $15 more than what it could have been.)
Anyway, here’s what it looked like: