Tag Archives: New Yorkers

We Have a Winner

Collegepalooza came down to two contenders — state schools, one in Massachusetts and one in New York. We drove to each one on consecutive weekends for accepted student day for a final look. We were nearly a 1/2 hour early for UMass — who knew driving on a Sunday morning cuts 30 minutes off the travel time? And we were about 1/2 hour late for SUNY. You can read about all those shenanigans here. Both had students cheering us on while we drove along the winding roads to the parking lot. I think they made us park far away from the main road to the school just for this purpose. Both had super geeky professors in their physics/astronomy departments, which seems about right.

After much hand-wringing and deer-in-the headlights looks from my teen, he finally picked one — class of 2021 at SUNY New Paltz. I was hoping 2021 would be one of those iconic Space Odyssey years, but alas, it’s not. He’s stuck with an odd graduation year like I was, although in retrospect 1987 had a lot of great 80s music. Maybe he’ll get good 20s music.

He’ll be a Bostonian in a school of nearly all New Yorkers, a fair number of those from NYC. And while I like to make fun of New Yorkers — it’s kind of a favorite Boston past time — I also have to admit I met a number of them when I went to college at BU, and they taught me a lot about confidence. That NYC attitude annoyed and impressed me, which is a great way to get interesting conversations started. And the ones not from NYC have attitude about explaining where they do come from in that state. That’s takes a certain amount of resilience. In the end, even if they are faking it ’til they make it, they generally have confidence to spare, and that is never a bad thing to learn.

And he’ll get to know a non-New England point of view that’s probably as different as if he’d gone to school farther way. New York is a state of mind after all. And that’s pretty much the main point of college, if you ask me. Well that and a bunch of other stuff that I certainly never did, nor did my siblings, for that matter. Right guys? Will I lose him to NY? It’s a 50/50 split in my family. One sister left our home state of Connecticut after high school to live around the Albany area and has been there ever since. The other sister went to Syracuse University in New York, and came back to Connecticut with her native New York state husband-to-be in tow.

Either way, just getting there is a pretty big deal in itself. Congrats to my kid and to all the kids who are finding their way, whether it be college, trade school, working, starting a business in a basement, tripping around Europe, or following the Grateful Dead around, if that’s even still a thing. Go find your thing.

 

Photo credit: Envisioning the American Dream

 

 

Take a Right, Left, Then a Dogleg at the Dunkin’

This week I wanted to lighten things up, and the universe gave me what I wanted.

I was walking to the train after work last week, and as I waited at a light to cross the street, a young man sort of looked in my direction, looked away, and then looked back. He was cute, so I entertained myself by thinking he was going to flirt and turned my head, smiled, and looked full at him. He noticed, and asked, “Can you tell me how to get to the North End?”

The look on my face must have been that New England “can’t get there from here” look. Depending on where you are in Boston when the hapless, lost person asks you, giving directions can be almost cruel. “Follow Cambridge Street until you come to the third Dunkin’ Donuts on the left — the road curves and becomes Tremont Street, but don’t worry about that. Just ignore it and follow the road…” By this point, the person has that blank look on their face, and you both know they’re not going to even make it to the first Dunkin’.

I pondered which of the ways I could tell him that would be least likely to lead him astray. Then he said in a more pronounced New York accent, which I hadn’t caught before, “This place is worse than New York!”

I started laughing. Encouraged, he proceeded; “There’s no math, just old English names!”

This tickled me to no end. My work in hospital communications is the sole reason I even admit numbers exist, and over the past 9 years, I’ve come to appreciate the usefulness of numbers in the world. However, make no mistake. I’m a word girl through and through, and my world is rocked by letters and words. But I have never considered streets being math- or word-oriented. I was delighted to be in a word city.

I laughed even harder and added, “Yes, just old-ass roads with no logic.”

Now he was into it, laughing too, as he said with the perfect New York point of view: “Yeah, it’s like, fuck you, take a right!”

I got my laughter under control enough to point out the way that made the most visual sense–not the way that would have been shorter.

“Walk down this street, and at the light take a right (I skipped the ‘fuck you’). Follow that road, you’ll go under an overpass, and you’ll think I’m sending you to the devil, but just stay on it. Then you’ll see Faneuil Hall — ”

At that his face lit up. “I know that place!”

“Great!” I wished him well, and we both walked in opposite directions, laughing our asses off.

So, this is my new way of directing people in Boston: “Look, there’s no math, just old-ass English names. Fuck you, take a right.”

Image credit: From this delightful blog about Boston cartography. It’s how you have to drive to get from a point A to point B in Boston. You can see why we walk!

California Steamin’

I was having lunch with my friend Mike (of the “You Should Be Dancing” post) this past week and he mentioned casually that our mutual friend Chris was flying out to California to interview at Google. I set down my fork and looked him straight in the eye. “No, he can’t go.”

Mike, who is familiar with my grand pronouncements, just smiled. “Oh really?”

“We already lost Stephen to that…that place,” I couldn’t even bring myself name it. “I’m not losing any more friends to it. That’s final.” Considering the case closed, I resumed eating.

Stephen, a born and bred New Englander, was wickedly funny, acerbic, and irreverent. I looked up to him for those reasons and because he came from Massachusetts. I’m from Connecticut, which, truth be told, has little street cred in New England. Don’t get me started—I know we don’t have an accent and we don’t really have a quintessential tourist thing for you to come a thousand miles for, like a peak with the worst weather in the world or the Kennedy Compound. But I fixed that by moving to Boston, and becoming a proud Masshole. And Stephen was the finest example of the Massachusetts flavor of cranky, caustic New England humor. I knew him for years. And then. He moved. To Cali… to that place. I told myself that he was strong, he’d show them, those flaky LA people with their white teeth and vintage cars.

But then I had a flashback of another person I had lost to that vacuous geography. He was a friend from college who was born and bred in New York. Granted he wasn’t a New Englander, but New Yorkers invented snark and he was hard-core. Didn’t trust a soul and was paranoid. I loved him. But I should have known when he showed interest in my Eagles album, Hotel California. I had bought it, but—big surprise—lost interest in it. He was a huge Eagles fan, so I offered it to him. I still remember how wary he was about it. He made me repeat multiple times that I wanted nothing in return, now or later. I loved him for that, too. Finally he accepted the album. God knows how long he waited in silent paranoia for me to call him up and say, “Remember that Eagles album I gave you? Well, I have a favor to ask.” I would never find out because shortly after college, his career path in filmmaking took him you know where. He claimed it would only be for five years, until he got enough experience.  At first he said he felt like an alien—people couldn’t understand him because they said he talked too fast. Guess what LA freaks, you listen too slow. But it didn’t last, and he was assimilated as sure as if a Borg ship had landed. That was 25 years ago. He ain’t coming back.

And then Stephen went out there for a job. Oh, sure he comes East about once a year, but that first year, I knew right away he was a goner. He had the gall to show up smiling. Happy. Soft. No snarky jokes, no cutting observations. He was nice. WTF? I had to goad him for a full five minutes before old Stephen showed up. Then he made a rude observation and said, “I missed you, Sandy!” No shit, Sherlock. You miss yourself! He’d clearly lost his way with all those vapid, soulless people in the freakin’ sunshine.

Which brings me to another problem I have with that place. Sunshine, my ass. You may be thinking I’ve never been there, and I’m making crabby, cranky unfounded statements. That would be an appropriate New England thing to do, but oh, no, I’ve been there. My friend Gloria (of the Prius and furniture post) and I drove cross-country a few years after college, a southerly route, east to west. Before driving to LA, we hiked into and camped in the Grand Canyon for a few days, where it rained a river in our small tent, and washed out one of the main water houses along the nearly 8 miles of desert trail. That meant we had to hike out, all uphill, hauling a gallon of water each (plus our full packs). I’ve never fantasized so much about breaking a leg so I could get helicoptered out. Why am I digressing? Well, after the Grand Canyon we drove west to LA to its youth hostel. When we got up the next morning, we saw it was cloudy. We’d grown up on “CHiPs” and “Starsky and Hutch,” all long commercials for this famous California sunshine. So a couple of crabby New Englanders assume we’re going to see some effin’ sunshine, and we were looking forward to it since we’d nearly bought the farm in the Grand Canyon. But it was definitely cloudy, like dark gray cloudy. Rain cloudy. We’re cloud experts, and we’d just been torrentially rained on in an alleged desert. We had earned the right to ask the question.

“Is it going to rain today?” To our credit, we said it in a puzzled tone.

The youth hostel worker replied in a haughty voice, “It never rains in California.”  I could have respected him if he’d said, “Sure, just after monkeys fly out of your ass.” That’s straight shooting; that’s New England. But he didn’t have a personality, just a fake superiority springing from his lame brain.

Gloria, also born in Connecticut and honing her skills in Maine, retorted in her best crusty voice, “Yeah? It’s not supposed to rain in the Grand Canyon either, and we’re still wringing out our tent.” She didn’t add “pretty boy,” but it was clearly implied.

LA boy merely sniffed at us. “It’s smog, and burns off at noon.” Noon? NOON? Are you serious? That’s not full on sun, you LA people who can’t count. That’s HALF a day of sunshine. Not ALL day, HALF. So not only do we have to put up with the attitude and the cardboard cutout people, but we’re also supposed to sit here and swallow this bunk about the sunshine? I think not, you half-assed tools.

Understandably pissed off, but trying to be as generous as possible for two New Englanders, we decided not to Judge. Yet. We’d spent close to a month driving across country and had encountered many interesting and entertaining people, including a waiter in Texas named Laredo and a Grand Canyon blacksmith who had a handle bar mustache and kept us rapt with tales of skittish tourists and kicking mules. I can tell you, and Gloria will confirm, we did not meet anyone like that in LA. We met a number of assorted people and all were vacant and uninteresting. No accents, no tall tales, no weird little social rituals left over from the Civil War. Nothin’.  And that gave us the right to judge. We did and still do. We did not meet another interesting person until we drove to San Francisco, where the people in the bar listened carefully to our LA tale and confirmed our suspicions. And no, they were not cranky people, they were strangely nice, but we didn’t hold it against them because they had personalities.

So maybe it’s LA I don’t like, but California is a big place and who knows how much of the blankness seeps out on yearly basis? Better safe than sorry, I say. That’s how we roll in New England. We hold grudges, we say what we mean, we tell you when we don’t like you, and we don’t fake our sunshine.

We are also loyal to our friends, so my final offer to you, Chris, is this: You can go to the interview. If you get the job, I prefer that you work in Cambridge, MA. But if you must, you may work in one of the offices closer to San Francisco. This thing called Silicon Valley didn’t exist when I visited, and for all I know it’s another LA sinkhole, but I hear they are nerdy, so that’s something.

Photo credit: Edison Avenue. The 80s band Missing Persons had it right with its song “Nobody Walks in LA.”