Sometimes I feel like I’m in no-man’s land when it comes to where I’m from.
I’ve been in the Carolinas since 1994, which means I’m still considered a Yankee by some natives here and a Southerner to my peeps back home in New York. Truthfully, I’m probably a hybrid. Call me a Dixikee or a Yankneck.
While I rarely want to dive into a bowl of grits, and I’m hardly ever “fixin’ to do somethin,’” I’m glad I’m at a place where I feel comfortable. I think traveling extensively has helped me fit in a bit easier, as I try to observe the culture of the places I’m visiting rather than make them bend to my ways. If that means bowing and avoiding certain hand gestures so as not to offend or ingesting a couple eyeballs and other parts of food normally discarded here in the States, it is a small price to pay for the enlightenment that comes with enjoying somebody else’s ways.
When I moved down here, I looked at it as a way to experience something new. I didn’t expect to bring New York a thousand miles South, and since I was leaving New York, there were probably some good reasons to do so. Maybe I’m naive to think that’s what most people do because there are way too many who think the South should bend to them. If I had a penny every time somebody complained about the pizza here (usually while chomping on a mouthful of the supposedly sub-standard stuff), I could retire from writing this column. If I had a nickel for every time somebody complained about the slow, deliberate pace of Southerners, I could probably buy each of them a particle accelerator to fly hell-bent through life until they croak. If I had a dime for every time transplants talk about “us” vs. “them” as if Sherman were heading towards Atlanta with his scorched Earth policy, I’d be able to buy each participant gray and blue uniforms and do Civil War re-enactments.
I have some great memories of where I grew up. But I also have some fantastic times to celebrate here, namely the birth of my two children. Life is full of events to remember, but that doesn’t mean I have to denigrate either place to enjoy them. Just because I made it 24 years in the North without crashing a car on snowy roads doesn’t mean I have to drive at break-neck speed here during flurries to prove my Nordic manhood.
Maybe we don’t have delis and fresh, crusty bread like the streets of Brooklyn do and maybe we have to look harder to find pizza pies like they made them at home, but we also don’t have people rushing past us or yelling “Whatcha lookin’ at?” when we glance in their general direction.
For the most part, we have a choice where we live, especially if we’ve moved. There must have been some reason to do it.
In fact, I bet there are a lot of good reasons we did.