Graduation Swan Song: An Ode to Long Island

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After five years of yearning, hoping, praying, and begging, we are finally wiggling free from the acrylic-tipped grasp of Long Island. And as we gear up for our next adventure, this time in the north shore of Boston (yes, swapping south shore for north shore and one infamous accent for another), I take a breath and prepare for the excitement to surge forth and wash over my outstretched arms. But just as unbridled enthusiasm approaches, and my fingertips begin to tingle, another, more unexpected, sensation sparks in my stomach.
I try to identify the foreign feeling spreading across my middle and reaching up to tickle my heart. It reminds me of the last day of summer camp, or the closing credits of a series finale.

Then I recoil.

It’s nostalgia.

For Long Island?

I’m experiencing the graduation effect, discussed in such shows as How I Met Your Mother and capitalized upon by such musicians as Vitamin C. Now that our departure is imminent, I’m becoming sentimental and, against all odds, developing a fondness for that which I so recently found distasteful. I suddenly admire the tenacity of the shirtless man who screams on our corner, the holiday cheer of the house decorated for Christmas all year long, the earthy scent of dog poo from the lawns of our eight immediate neighbors. I applaud the convenience of nearby highways and strip mall offerings. I discover that relentless traffic affords us time to contemplate life’s great mysteries, and I find the excessive honking of impatient drivers is not a symptom rage, but of passion.

I decide that the carrot glow of a fake tan in February is an iconic cultural beauty.

And why not award the word “dog” two syllables? It’s a good word; let it last!

If I’m applying such a sheen to the aspects of Long Island I once spurned, you can imagine how I feel about the parts I’ve always appreciated:

Pizza sauce has never been tangier, and its cheese is the perfect creamy compliment to the light salt and yeast of the dough. The ideal marriage of fat, carbs, and pureed tomato. Yum.

The untouched dunes of Robert Moses State Park are a natural wonder; I marvel at the landscape: plumes of sea grass sprout from the sands, the cobalt sea rushes against the shore in frothy licks and sparkles beneath the sun, as if its surface is encrusted with diamonds. All this, beneath an endless cerulean sky.

When we attend a Billy Joel cover band concert, I feel united with the crowd as we sway to the crooning of “Piano Man” or bounce to the beat of “You May Be Right.” The ‘sweet romantic nights’ he refers to in “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” occurred just thirty minutes away from where we stand! We are so proud of our Billy, an accomplished product of this paved island. He, along with so many other entertainment treasures, are our exalted alumni: Jerry Seinfeld, Rodney Dangerfield, the Baldwin brothers, Mariah Carey, Billy Crystal, Kevin James, Eddie Murphy, Pat Benatar, and Francis Ford Coppola. These artists are our graduated peers, the upperclassmen whose legends echo in the aisles of King Kullen, ping off the concrete of the expressway overpasses, and reverberate in the train cars of the Long Island Railroad. Their creative genius was nurtured on the very grounds on which we honk, and they left the island inspired.

Now that we, too, are departing, I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, so can we.

20 Fake Disappointing Headlines I’d Have Preferred to Read Over, “Friends Reunion Confirmed As Rumor”

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1)   M&M Discontinues Peanut Butter Variety

2)   Now Neptune Isn’t A Planet

3)   Alena Gained Five Pounds

4)   Nickelback Announces Release Of New Album, and We All Must Listen

5)   Carvel Going Out of Business

6)   Tent Dresses Back In Style

7)   Peasant Tops Out of Style

8)   Winter Extended One Month

9)   People No Longer Read Books (Oh wait—this one is true)

10)  Your Rent Will Increase

11)  The Minister Who Performed Your Wedding  Wasn’t Properly Ordained, Rendering Your Two Year Marriage Null And Void

12)   Government Mandates All Households Donate 50% Of Their Shoes To Charity

13)   Scientists Conclude Avocados Are Actually Unhealthy

14)   David Sedaris Gives Up Writing—But Only For a Year. Two Tops.

15)  While On Long Island, Accent Required

16)  Harry Potter World To Close Before You Get to Visit

17)  Starbucks Confirmed As Drug; Daily Dose May Not Exceed Doctor Prescription

18)  Holy Grail Found! And Then Lost, Again

19)   Sex and The City 3 Is NOT A Rumor And Will Be An Actual Movie

20)   Nicholas Cage To Star In Every Future Feature Film Ever Made– That Includes SATC 3 (Now I’ve gone too far)

Portrait of a Lukewarm Apology to Long Island

It’s true that, in the past, I’ve said some unflattering things about Long Island. Things like:

“It’s a 118 mile long shopping plaza.”

“It’s a 118 mile long parking lot.”

“I don’t understand how there are enough people in America, never mind in Long Island alone, to keep this many nail salons and tattoo parlors in business.”

“It’s a 118 mile long commercial for men’s hair gel.”

“There are only two things that I like about it, and that’s because I’m generous enough to make ‘pizza’ and ‘Italian food’ two separate categories.”

(The last one isn’t quite true. There are actually four things that I like about Long Island, but the comedic timing works better with the symmetry of two.)

Today, I (gulp) want to give Long Island some credit.

It is possible to find natural beauty on Long Island, if you know where to look. Take the following photos:

Now you might be thinking, “Okay, but these photos were taken on the North Fork. That’s practically a different planet from the rest of Long Island.”

I’d have to agree with you there.

But consider these photos taken not a mile from my apartment:

Yup. Beauty. On Long Island. It’s true.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for my sometimes negative portrayal of the area. It isn’t all bad.

But it isn’t all great, either.

For instance, this is what I’d always thought a sunrise looked like:

And this is what Long Island calls Sunrise Highway:

But at the end of the day, at least I don’t live in New Jersey.

(kidding, kidding)

Connecticut? So you grew up on a farm?

Phil and I have recently been creeped out by How I Met Your Mother‘s depiction of Marshal and Lily’s move to Long Island. The writers are obviously spying on us, and I don’t like it.

Quotes like, “Are Marshal and Lily in the hospital?” “No, somewhere much worse… Long Island,” are eerily accurate, and then there are episodes completely based on scenes from our lives. We were on “Drunk Train” last month. Drunk Trains are all the LIRR locomotives out of Penn Station between the hours of midnight and 6 am. Phil and I were surrounded by intoxicated Italian Americans whose hair was sharpened by an alloy of gel and sweat. A college-aged couple argued from Jamaica to Baldwin about whether the boyfriend was wrong for giving a water bottle meant for his lady to a girl throwing up back in the station.

He said, “She was with my boy, Paulie. I’d never seen Paulie look so defeated. I had to help the kid out.”

“Why is Paulie with that slut anyway? You can’t turn a whore into a housewife.”

“He was so defeated.”

“I wanted that water.”

“The guy was defeated!”

After this couple left the train, a remaining group mocked them, saying, “He was just so depressed. I had to help him out.

I wanted to scream, “Defeated! He said defeated. Like fifteen times. How could you get that wrong??” They proceeded to comment on how annoying the couple was, and Phil and I looked at each other, both knowing that the annoying couple was them, just five years younger.

People stumbled down the aisles, and the cars were PACKED. Then a fight broke out and the train had to be held at a station until the police arrived. The trip was hell, and when we finally got back to our apartment, I needed to lock Long Island out.

This past week’s HIMYM featured Marshal and Lily virtually imprisoning Robin at their house while trying to appease her with pitiful activities, all so that they wouldn’t be alone on the island. This was difficult to watch, as I have many times over tried to tempt people to visit with lame itineraries, the worst of which included watching crabs race in a kiddie pool, the best of which was wine tasting in a garage. And when they are ready to leave, I scramble for an alternative to keep them entertained. It’s pathetic.

In the show, Robin journaled her experiences as a captive. The contents didn’t really ring true for Phil and I, so I’ve decided to record my own version:

Day 576

We’ve managed to resist the ways of the island so far, but I pray a rescue boat is sent soon; I’m not sure how much longer we can hold on.

I still haven’t determined if the natives are aware of life outside the island. They consider “going away” commuting from south to north shore, and when I mention the bridges, they hiss.

The most profound difference between this tribe and my own is evident in dialect. From their witness alone, one would think they’ve named their home Lawn Guyland, but from prior knowledge, I know this to be a bastardization of two English words: Long and Island. This name is quite accurate; days on the island are the longest I’ve ever experienced. (Additional note on dialect: no word here ends in “er”. For example, “explorer” and “loser” become “explorah” and “losah.”)

The mating behaviors of females are peculiar. Every partial thought is punctuated by “like” and “oh my gawd.” They attach colored plastic claws to their hands, wear a second skin of velour fabric, and totter about on spiked footwear. The males are just as attentive in their grooming. It seems that the amount of hair product an individual uses is in direct correlation with his desire to procreate.

I must assume that the locals have an inherently poor sense of direction because why else would all of the streets, from tip to tip and shore to shore, be straight. I wonder if their aversion to turns is socially or genetically induced.

The straight, flat roads are lined with shopping plazas, and each is equipped with a pizza place, nail salon, bagel shop, and tattoo parlor, leading me to believe that they are sustained primarily by dough and culturally motivated by artificial body coloring. The implications of these observations are, as yet, inconclusive.

I have not yet established what occupies their days. There are many cars on the streets–traffic as far as the eye can see. But because I’ve noted from previous research that they are not leaving the island, I cannot imagine where they are so eager to travel. Tangah Outlets? New York City? No, it can’t be the city, because although the natives refer to themselves as New Yahwkers, they only go to New York City on rare occasions to see the Knicks play.