That’s me. Always have been, always will be. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the girl. More than that, I am a Long Island girl (and no, it is not pronounced “lawn GUYland”, contrary to popular belief). As we begin planning to move once again, and not to New York, I am realizing now how special and unique my home state is, especially Long Island. Once upon a time, I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I left just as soon as I could, running across the country to Arizona, where I thought I needed to be, only to discover that 1 – the world outside of New York was entirely different to the world I knew, and 2 – once you’ve left her, it’s nearly impossible to go back. Note: I did not say totally impossible, just nearly so. I have known others who have managed to go back.
There was a woman I went to school with in Arizona, who had done a study on people who have been uprooted – voluntarily or not – from their home states, and what she found was that of all of those people, the ones from New York and Oregon are the ones who are the most rabidly loyal to their home states. I believe her, because I am one of them. More to the point, I am loyal to Long Island. I haven’t lived there since 1996, and am not a big sports fan, but if you asked me who I root for, it’s the NY Islanders, the NY Jets, and the NY Mets. I don’t care how well the teams are doing, or not. They are all affiliated with Long Island, therefore they are my teams (Yes, even the Mets. Queens is on Long Island, folks, whether you like to admit it or not. If Long Island sank into the sea, Brooklyn and Queens would be lost too). And the first things I look for wherever I live are good pizza, Nathan’s hot dogs, a Sprout’s market for my Boar’s Head deli meats, and a good bagel spot. I have given up on a good delicatessen. Sorry, but chain delis like Schlotsky’s and Jason’s, or sandwich shops like Subway simply do not cut it. If you’re making a pastrami on rye, you don’t nuke the pastrami, for starters.
Food isn’t the only thing I miss. I miss the diversity and the culture, the availability of transportation at almost any time, and no, the city really doesn’t ever sleep!
Long Island does, but it, too, has its uniqueness. Sleepy little hamlets, playgrounds for the rich, farms, a reservation, beaches all around. We gave the world Billy Joel, Steve Buscemi, Billy Crystal, and the Baldwin boys: Alec, William, Stephen, and Daniel. And I’ve never seen such close-knit communities anywhere outside of LI. While many of us left NY upon graduating high school or college, just as many of us stayed, some still in the homes they’d grown up in, sending their children to the same schools we attended, where some of the teachers still remain, thirty-some-odd years later. When I left, I thought of it as stagnation, but I see it very differently now.
LI is populous enough that town boundaries amuse me. One side of the street could be one town, while the other side of the street is another. And though there were several thousand people in town, we all knew each other on some level, even those kids that never attended the same school, and many of us across town boundaries. I didn’t realize until I left how unique that was. The places I lived since then, it was lucky if you knew your immediate neighbors, never mind the rest of the town.
The one thing I apparently never mastered was the attitude. My mother always told me I was too nice for New York. I never had the in-your-face, take-no-prisoners personality that is known as the NY attitude, and I always envied those who did. Maybe with strangers whose opinions I cared nothing about, but if you were even an acquaintance, I was likely to put up with more from you than I should, and I’m still that way. Hard for me to draw a line in the sand and say “I’m done!” I’m trying, though, and all of my other New York survival skills are honed just fine, thanks!
Speaking of which, I discovered that fact when I went back three years ago for the first time in fifteen years. It was automatic to put my purse cross-body under my jacket, meet no-one’s eyes as I walked, and to walk quickly.It was like riding a bike, yet still a surprise that I fell back into old habits so easily, without much thought, even after such a long absence. These habits weren’t practiced at all, in either Arizona or Colorado. Not that both places don’t have their dangerous areas, but in both states, none of their cities resemble cities as I know them. To me, they resemble suburbs, where I never felt the need to use concrete jungle survival skills. You never see the crowds of people on the street in Tucson or Colorado Springs that you see in Manhattan.
As a side, humorous note, I would like to add – for people who have never been there and only seen movies – when you see high-speed car chases down New York City streets? Know that these could never happen. Never. Never. The streets are far too congested for them, at all hours. Better at night, of course, but still. And not all of New York is NYC. In fact, in geographical terms, NYC consists of only a very small part of the entire state, even when you include the outlying boroughs. Don’t forget the Adirondacks and the Catskills, which are beautiful (and much older, gentler mountains than the western ones); or Niagara Falls. Upstate New York is gorgeous, and has many rural areas.
Yes, I am a New Yorker. I may never live there again, that’s true, and may not have the stereotypical attitude, but I will always be proud to say that I am from New York. I will always believe that it is the best state of the union, and I will always miss it.
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