Friday, April 23, 2010

Late Night Rambles

So, over on twitter we got into discussing my love of Scotland, sort of. And from that I brought up the old stereotype of Eastern Seaboarders, which is totally true. Of course like all stereotypes, not everyone proves the rule, but as someone who has lived here for all but the odd trip the UK, and what with all of the family I keep in contact with living either in this area or in New England, I have noticed a lot of truth in the old stereotypes about us Northeasterners. And unfortunately this leads to the occasional clash with my own personality, though I must admit I am guilty of a lot of them as well. So, from one Northie looking at his fellows, how do these old bones hold up?

1. The West Coast is the Enemy. Capital Enemy. As in, Second War in Heaven Enemy (Doctor Who reference, see here). This is very much truth. Oh yeah, you'll find a lot of Easterners who disagree, but yeah, it's very much truth. Sure, I've West Coast friends, but even the tightest of them isn't that tight. It's funny in a way because you usually expect us Northerners to be at odds with Kentucky or something, but really, especially California...whoo doggy. Let's just avoid the comparisons between the two and leave it at, the West Coast is the Enemy. Now that that's out of the way...

2. Northeasterners will keep you at a distance, but if you get past that wall, you will become tighter than family. So, so true. I'm more open online than real life, but even online I tend to be very reserved. Real life...well, let's just say so far only six people know about my relationship: Me, my girlfriend, her mom, her dad, her sister, and my friend Phil. This observation really has and I think always will stand the test of time. A lot of people complain about it, saying they would prefer Southern hospitality, but I would rather have this. A bunch of strangers being nice and helping each other out is grand, but show me people who make as tight connections as we Northerners do and I will show you a golden stairwell to the moon.

3. The East Coast tends to be more formal. Kind of an extension of the above. We aren't really, we're just much more reserved around those who aren't closer than blood, and generally, bar teenagers, the fashion tends to be less...out there than that of the Enemy.

4. Everything is GO! GO! GO! Sadly, yes. I mean this isn't always a bad thing, but I am very much the tortoise. Here be hares.

5. Metropolitan Easterners tend to be loud, pushy assholes. And damn proud of it. It's a fine balance, the asshole-friend. Also we may appear more assholish because of point 2, but yeah, the whole asshole thing tends to be true, but you just rock with it man. That's the way things are. Like I said, it's a finely polished art people perfect from youth.

6. The East Coast is much more class-conscious. Not as true as it used to be, but you can bet the old New Money v Old Money feud and similar things are still carrying on. It's not like out and out war, but generally we middle class keep to ourselves, the upper middle to the upper middle, poor to the poor, etc. Lord knows what the Enemy does.

7. Northeasterners are straight with you. You know, I think we have yet to hit a lie? I mean we've hit exaggerations and conditionals, but no lies. And this isn't a lie either. Like all of them, there are exceptions, but for the most part we don't fuck around. I mean like anyone most people dick around a bit, but only in scenarios where it would end badly to be one hundred percent honest.

8. Neuroticism is fun. The only way to truly appreciate the early Woody Allen is to have lived here for quite some time.

9. Ambitious, yet cynical. We doubt, we stumble, we weep behind closed doors, but we do not give up. And yet simultaneously all those scrapes and burns make us turn on our own ambitions, and anyone else's ambition. It's an odd contradiction, but it's a great way to be. Nothing makes you work harder than hating on yourself. And nothing makes you hate yourself more than working harder. It's a vicious circle of inevitable victory.

10. We like swearing. Ties in with the assholish thing, but we do everywhere, not just in the cities. Most East Coasters can appreciate a good "fuck you" so long as it's deserved. Shit happens. You can be disgusted or you can get over the fact that someone just swore at you and get on with your life. Really there's only one swear word that fazes me any more, and even that not so much as all the non-Northies I know...

11. Religion is important. Not insofar as everyone has to be religious, in fact most of us are non-religious (myself included; take the time to google philosophical theism if you're curious). But we like to know who is what. It doesn't affect who we hang out with, really. We just make it our business to know who's Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Hindu...again, no idea why, we just do it.

12. Who the fuck lives in Jersey? Speaks for itself really. Unless you're from Jersey, you've at some point spoken a variation on this. And I imagine even people from New Jersey have said some sort of variation at some point as well. Actually one thing I've noticed over the years is Jersey is a lot like Wales. It could drop into the sea and no one would notice for a year, and when we finally do figure it out the only thing we'll care about is that we're suddenly beachfront property.

13. Sei ein mann. Always. For one, never look lost and never be lost. If you are in a foreign city, act local. If you get lost, don't you dare admit it. I mean sure, people from other parts of the country do things like this to, but no matter where I go, it seems us Northies are always the most, well, fight-y. Being a Northie teaches you to be independent, and incredibly shrewd.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these are universal. Like all stereotypes, there's a grain of truth in them, and there are the people who are the embodiment of them, but they tend to be unfounded. Tend to be. Like all of my posts, this has kind of devolved, but really, in my experiences living here, those of us in the Northeast match our stereotypes (and does aren't even all of them, they're just the ones friends and I could think of off the top of our heads) pretty damn tightly. And of course, most of these stereotypes are true of the metropolitan hubs, slightly less true but still very much so of us out in the burbs, and not so much of the rurites. Especially here in PA. Hell, even the Harrisburg and Pittsburgh areas are more mid-west-y than here. I blame the fact that there were mountains in the way, so the Britons and Germans stayed in Philly and Jersey and Manhattan, whilst the people from New York state and Ohio and Canada came to take over the rest of the state.

Also, I like to think an English saying applies here in the States as well. "You can take the man out of the North, but you can't take the North out of the man." Okay so variations on that get used a lot in a lot of places. But I like to think it holds true because it would oh-so-totally suck to lose my Northie-ness if/when I move.

Here's some fun food for thought:

The stereotypes/attitudes of our various regions are the fault of their settlers. For sake of brevity, I'll only go into here and the Enemy, so sorry other parts of America, you'll have to chime in with your own thoughts.

The East Coast: Initially settled by people seeking some freedom, but not dire changes from the old ways. Throughout its history, settled by ambitious people, straightforward people who placed more emphasis on work ethic, which is of course reinforced by the weather. The springs are nice and the summers hot, but autumn cools fast and the winters are rough, so if you spend your warm months dicking about, you're suddenly dying come Christmas. The Northeast is a blend of that old Puritan uniform work ethic (seriously, do some looking into the Puritan way of life, it's kind of cool to read about) with the dreamful work ethic of the influx of immigrants. It's a region of rolling up your sleeves to struggle up that ladder, from janitor to Emperor.

The Enemy, by contrast, was largely unsettled even after we got our hands on it. California wasn't really settled until the gold rush, Oregon was temporarily settled before they botched all the land, and fuck if I know anything about Washington other than why I hate it (which I shan't go into here). Both the Oregon land rush and the California gold rush were attempts by people from the east to break away from that old rolling up your sleeves to climb slowly to the top sort of life. Instead, it was the first get-rich-quick scenario. It was people who wanted to make their own rules instead of stick to the ones which had been in place for centuries. And this continues. If the East had its Puritans reinforced by the later generations of immigrants, the whole of the Enemy was reinforced in the 1960s by the flood of hippies and in the 1990s by the interweb folks. And again, the weather is a factor. Washington is an exception to the rule, but the bulk of the Enemy has nicer weather than us here on the East, especially the Southern Californians. So why work hard all year when you can play nine days out of ten?

At the end of the day, really, I think wherever one has spent the bulk of one's life is really where one will think of being the best place on Earth. Lord knows I love the UK, especially Scotland, and oh hell yes I do intend to move there and will be happy, but you can bet your ass I will always think the Seaboard > Scotland. Favorite, after all, doesn't mean best.

And like I said above, like all posts this tends to devolve. I may re-do this post with lack of hastily assembled list, and just write about general contemplations regarding the specific here and get one of the Enemy to write about the specific there and mesh them into a post. In the future I may stop writing posts at the crack of sleep and actually stopping for a while when I get distracted instead of trying to trudge on when the Brain Train gets derailed.

Also, I have been addicted to this:

So, yeah, there's my contemplative post for today. Stay cool everyone.

P.S. on that Woody Allen note: Annie Hall is a great analysis of the differences between us and the Enemy. Sorry other parts of the country, no film for you.


  1. I love learning about new places! Well not new, but new on my list!!! I love that you love to swear... at least you're owning it!

  2. Brilliant list, I had no idea the whole EAST/WEST thing was like that ;~)

    Not ramblings - interesting points I never knew :~)