January 10, 2014

The 11 Best Things About Growing Up On Long Island

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1. Hanging Out In Parking Lots

Parking lots cater to a very specific type of upbringing, the sort that fantasizes about escaping “this shitty town” whilst also realizing how great the shithole is. Styrofoam cups, backseat makeouts, and weird bonding over Wendy’s crispy chicken sandwiches are all very crucial when it comes to LI #personalgrowth.

When I was in high school, pretty much any social occurrence of worth went down in the Starbucks parking lot. As Long Islanders know, you can take the kid out of the parking lot, but you can’t take the parking lot out of the kid.

2. Intricate Knowledge of 7-11s

If you’re from Long Island and grew up in the 2000s, you’ll recall that massive Facebook group (remember those?) dedicated to Long Island kids our cute little Long Islandisms. I distinctly recall two of them:

  • You live in the shadow of the greatest city in the world, yet never go there.
  • You know the exact location of 44 McDonalds, and 36 7-11s.

That we did, primitive version of demographically exploitative articles such as this one. As an addendum, I don’t think I’m alone in having intricate knowledge of the items sold at each 7-11; which ones had the chipwiches, and which slurpee machines were the least watery.

3. Diner Appreciation/Superiority

We all love diners, and Long Island has some of the best. This passage from a great article about diners sums it up rather nicely:

Like Kobe beef of the Hyogo Prefecture, the term “diner” may only be applied to a specific type of eatery, not that truck-stop Guy Fieri bullshit. First, the menus must be large in both physical and gastronomical proportions (more on that shortly). The design of the restaurant must be gaudily garish, adorned in Formica, neon, and stainless steel. Finally, if you are not assisted by at least one wooly man dripping with all gold everything, do not dare invoke the designation of “diner”. You’re simply at a coffee shop.  Extra points for giant desserts in revolving display cases and tableside jukeboxes that never work.

4. “Gawgus Ladies”

A “Gawgus Lady” is a species of female, aged 40-65, found exclusively on Long Island and in northern New Jersey.

Gawgus Ladies, best known for telling their nieces and nephews how gawwwwgeous they are, can typically be found in hair salons, family style Italian restaurants, and shady jewelry shops. They are almost always Italian or Jewish, and their perfume choices are questionable to say the least.

Jennifer Lawrence’s character in American Hustle is a future Gawgus Lady.

5. Manhunt

One of the first few weeks of college, I casually mentioned my preoccupation with the childhood defining game called manhunt. My roommate, from Florida, looked at me as if I was trying to convince him that we should spend the night hanging out in a parking lot.

Shocked, confused, and a little bit angry, I spent the next month or so asking my floormates if they had ever played the game. Most people assumed I was talking about capture the flag. It was heartbreaking.

6. Adventureland Malaise

The 2009 movie Adventureland took place in a fictional town outside of Pittsburgh, but it’s pretty clear that everything about the movie is based on the barely amusement park located in Farmingdale. In fact, writer/director Greg Mottola, a Dix Hills native, worked at Adventureland in the 80s.

In addition to nailing the parking lot element, the movie does a great job capturing the post high school suburban malaise that tends to dominate Long Island summers — at this point you know that there’s a lot of things that are better than living in your hometown. Yet, there’s something about the experience that makes you proud to play a part.

7. The BLI Fugitive

Once upon a time, this was a cultural phenomenon:

8. New York City Quality, Long Island Prices

The bagel place I go to in New York City has great bagels. However, a bagel with cream cheese costs $3.50. Impossibly, this is normal.

I’d argue that my bagel place out on Long Island is of the same great New York quality, but for half the price. Plus, the ‘uge accent is included.

9. Built In Thick-Skin

I recently went on vacation with my family. I had somewhat forgotten that mercilessly making fun of each other is our primary means of interaction.

I wouldn’t say this is Long Island specific, but the region, on the whole, doesn’t believe in passive-aggressive compromise. Sometimes, this can be acted upon in negative fashion. But when done properly, it enables a person to take pride in who they are. This seems positive, and it seems like much less of a thing in the age of the subtweet.

10. Toying With Other People’s Perceptions

In popular culture, Long Island is often painted as a Gatsby-esque fantasy-land; ruled by power-hungry Jordan Belforts, fueled by yacht-side partying with unlimited caviar.

To some degree, this exists. But it’s a very small portion confined to a few specific areas, which only make up a very small part of a much larger mosaic. Whenever my friends that aren’t from the area visit, they are always thoroughly disappointed that the most exciting thing we ever do is eat at Baja Grill.

And even in the most privileged of areas, the most sought out attraction is probably the diner.

11. Guidos, Lax Bros, and Everything In Between

All of whom, for generations, have bonded over the wonderfully funky smells of the LIRR. TC mark

image – American Hustle
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