>This may sound crazy, but hear me out before you call to have me committed: Staten Island may very well be the most interesting borough in New York City. On a visit to the most suburban, whitest (approximately 80% of the population versus 57% in Manhattan, according to the 2000 Census) borough, I was shocked to discover many things.

Forget Lauren Conrad and her stupid exploits on the MTV reality show, The Hills. Staten Island is also very hilly, and the hills are alive with the sound of music - rap, salsa, and hip hop blaring from car stereos and apartment windows. Also, there are a number of Latin American restaurants and soul-food joints that tempted me with delectable aromas as I sweat my ass off climbing up and down the hilly, winding streets. I replenished my fluids with a refreshing ice tea that I purchased at a gay-friendly (hello, rainbow flag!) coffee house across the street from Ira's Curiosity Place and Mood Swings, two store specializing in antique junk and other random crap.

The site visits for the book I am writing about attractions that are off the beaten path are nearing completion, and of all the places I trekked around in, Staten Island surprised me the most. Not that I was not consistently delighted by the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan - I totally was - but I expected to be. Staten Island definitely has its hidden quirks, which makes it as fascinating as its more diverse borough cousins.

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