Several weeks back the Kellys made their annual trip up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, a place we fell in love with 15 or so years ago. On one sunny afternoon me Mrs. and daughter-in-law went into town looking for something or other. (I find it best not to ask.) That freed me son and me to, um, cool ourselves with a nice beverage at a little harborside joint called McSeagulls.
While sipping our dark and stormys we happened to chat up a gent several seats down as he labored at something on his laptop. He’d stopped for a bite on his way to East Boothbay, and asked if the road he planned to take would get him there. Nope, we said, and set him straight. He thanked us and said he was up from Massachusetts to meet up with his family. Where are you from? he asked us. D.C., me son said. EASTERN Long Island, said I.
Yes indeed, I put a great deal of emphasis on the word “eastern,” which judging from the gent’s lack of reaction carried absolutely no meaning to him. I’m guessing he thinks Long Island is Long Island, east, west or whatever. And that’s the problem.
I may be way oversensitive on this and really shouldn’t give a hoot, but I just hate the idea of being lumped in with what I fear is the less-than-admirable popular perception of Long Island by non-islanders. That’s not without some justification.
A little over 20 years ago the whole country was talking about a nearly 40-year-old Nassau County auto body shop owner — Joey Buttafuoco, of course — who was sleeping with a 16-year-old named Amy Fisher. As bad as that was, it got worse when Ms. Fisher went to the Buttafuocos’ Massapequa home and shot Joe’s wife, Mary Jo, in the side of the head. The media, those SOBs, dubbed her “The Long Island Lolita” and after she got out of jail became a porn star, or so I’ve heard.
OK, I was born on Long Island, in Nassau County, but, hey, not all Long Islanders have big hair and small morals.
Sure, that was a long time ago and I should let it go, but I just can’t. Maybe it’s a case of Irish Alzheimer’s; I’ve forgotten everything but the grudge.
Fortunately, these days the cable TV channel guide is largely a Buttafuoco-free zone. Ah, but then several years ago came the discovery of several bodies, believed to be of people who once worked in the sex trade, apparently dumped not far from the ocean, apparently by a serial killer, near Gilgo Beach in Babylon. Another wonderful reflection on our island home.
Ever watch “The Long Island Medium” TV show? It’s about this woman with hair a flock of chimney swifts could call home without her knowing it and a thicker than tar “Lawng Guyland” accent who claims she can communicate with the dead. Just great. Now “Long Island” is also associated with a person whose daily hairspray usage may be seriously depleting the ozone layer and who takes advantage of emotionally fragile people when they’re most vulnerable.
Now, I’m not a snob, far from it. As I’ve said before, my parents grew up in Yonkers (hardly a hotbed of snobbery, although it was the setting for “Hello, Dolly”) and migrated to Levittown after the war. Later we wandered east to a southeast Brookhaven community where Norman Rockwell would have felt right at home. My current abode is a three-bedroom ranch and in the driveway is a Ford pickup in which I carry my own trash to the dump.
If between bites of his lobster roll our friend from Massachusetts had offered, “You mean you guys are from Lawng Guyland?” No doubt I would have launched into a monologue about living amid wineries and farms, ospreys and egrets, a vacation paradise summer and fall without serial killers or porn stars — none that come to mind, anyway. No doubt he would have signaled to the barkeep “check, please” and me son would have hung his head in shame.
Let it go, pal, let it go. Relax and watch some TV. Wait, what’s this show? “Princesses: Long Island.” What’s this? “Chanel and Ashlee drive into the city to meet up with Casey. Joey confronts Amanda after the altercation at the pool party. Casey reveals her past with Erica, and is now trying to put the past behind her for the girls’ upcoming Hamptons trip.”
Heaven help us. Wonder what a three-bedroom ranch goes for in Maine.