Issue #119 – “Leaving Long Island” – November 12th, 2007

-I was born and raised in a place that’s often misunderstood by the outside world.  A strange place that’s equal parts beloved and hated.  A place called Long Island.   Though I haven’t lived on Long Island regularly since I left for college a decade ago, all natives are permanently branded with certain stereotypes (starting with the fact that we often pronounce it “LawnGUYland”).  And, strangely enough, since I moved to Los Angeles, I’ve felt a stronger bond to Long Island than ever before.  This month, as I return home for Thanksgiving and my ten-year high school reunion, I thought I’d reflect on the place that deftly shaped me and a generation of fellow Long Islanders into a nice, tidy little cult.

-Since this column is read around the world, first here’s a brief geography lesson.  Manhattan is an island.  Just east of Manhattan is a much larger island, comprised of Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau County, and Suffolk County.  Nassau and Suffolk together form what’s known as Long Island.  We have some of the best bagels and public schools in the country.  Our primary export?  Hordes of overly well-dressed, frighteningly bitchy, petite-framed chicks who are simultaneously hot and annoying.

-I think that twentysomethings are often overly sentimental or overly cynical about high school.  Now don’t get me wrong, by the time senior year rolled around, I was ready to get the fuck out, but for the most part I enjoyed high school.  Sure, I took enough AP classes to earn a year of college credit when I should have been trying to get laid, but I didn’t quite have my priorities straight back then.  My friends and I still partied the best we could.  Though what more can you really expect from the suburbs than drinking in a park on weekends and running from rent-a-cops?

-Interesting tidbit: everyone from Long Island does in fact know each other.

-It was a pretty awesome experience when, two years ago, I was asked to speak to my high school’s senior class about college life.  But when I got to the school, I ran into a girl from my graduating class, who was now a Spanish teacher there.  Right before I went on, she told me, “Buena suerte.”  That totally depressed me.  Not because she was a teacher at our old high school, but because she was speaking to me in Spanish – as if I was still a fucking student.  I wanted to say, “Hey, I should be the one looking down on you, not the other way around!”  But instead I just said, “Gracias.”

-I’m not sure how I feel about my ten-year reunion.  A lot of people tell me the best part of reunions is catching up with people you’ve lost touch with.  The weird thing, though, is that I haven’t lost touch with any of my good friends – not a single person.  The guys I took a limo with to the prom are the exact same guys I’m taking a limo with from the reunion.  I guess what they say is true: bonds formed while sprinting from the hood-mounted searchlight of a cop car… are bonds that last a lifetime.

Interesting tidbit: People born west of the Mississippi who attend college in the Northeast are often appalled when they first meet people from Long Island.  Don’t worry, this is normal.  The shock will wear off as soon as you buy overpriced jeans and assimilate.

-Having spent the last ten years since high school living in Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles, I don’t know if I could ever reconcile moving back to the suburbs, at least until I have a family.  Long Island is a great place to grow up, but a weird place to be a single twentysomething.  I mean, I guess there are a couple of places I could recommend to get a drink with a girl – but, just to be safe, make sure she wears running shoes.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Have you ever opened an Evite as soon as you received it, noticed that over 100 people had already responded, and then realized that the host blatantly forgot to include you the first time around?

-I’ve met a lot of people in LA whose high school graduating class was only like fifty people, and they’d all been going to school together since kindergarten.  That’s the kind of fucked up thing that if, twenty years from now, it turned out to actually be some kind of cruel government experiment, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

-The other day, I was in West Hollywood about to get a haircut when I asked the receptionist if I could use the bathroom.  He said, “Go for it.”  For some reason, this enraged me.  Just say, “Sure.”  Fucking hipsters.

-How come when I’m waiting for a haircut, all the other people who walk in look like they’ve just gotten one?

-After I spoke at my high school, which by the way is succinctly named Plainview-Old Bethpage John Fitzgerald Kennedy High School, or for short, P.O.B.J.F.K.H.S., I was not invited back the following year.  It turns out certain faculty members didn’t approve of my overall message, which was essentially: “You’re gonna get really fucked up in college; just try not to boot on anyone’s girlfriend.”  Originally, I thought I had been banned.  But recently I was told this is not the case; my next appearance at the school has simply been delayed… forever.

-I’m a bit of an oversignaler.  When I drive, I signal no matter what – even if I’m just pulling into my building’s parking lot.  This in and of itself is not a problem.  It’s just that I’ve begun to rationalize that, as long as I signal, I can do anything.  I’m king of the mid-street U-turn.  But I always signal first – which I assume other drivers interpret to mean, “Watch out, ‘cause I’m about to do some illegal shit.”

-And, finally, a rite of passage that comes with growing up on Long Island is the “Penn Station mad dash.”  Penn Station, which lies beneath Madison Square Garden, is the hub that connects all of Long Island with the city via the Long Island Railroad.  (And yeah, to us, Manhattan is always just called “the city”).  When native Long Islanders return from college or fly in for the holidays, they usually go out partying in the city, then all end up back at Penn Station at around 4am waiting for trains back to the Island.  When a train is called, a bunch of sloppy drunkards make a mad dash to get a seat, then spend the ride home either vomiting, passed out, or talking really, really loudly to each other.  This tradition has not changed since I was in high school, and in a sense, it’s emblematic of a larger phenomenon: no matter your age or where you’re from, something will always drag you back home.  Hopefully, it’s just not a rent-a-cop.  Fuck me.