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.

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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)