If you live in New York City, you have an opinion about Long Island. Likely, it is a negative one. Also likely: you have never been to Long Island.
I’m not here to tell you that every square millimeter of Long Island is a blissful wonderland that would make a Cialis commercial location scout be like “Here! We should put the clawfoot bathtubs on the beach right HERE!!” although there are some beaches that would be quite perfect for the clawfoot bathtubs. Yes, certain parts of Long Island -- and I’m not going to name names (solidarity) -- are industrial shitholes of the highest measure. Everywhere with seven and a half million people has these places. Someone needs to do the welding.
Other parts of Long Island unspool West to East into ghastly stretches of highway or strip mall-proximate thoroughfares. Everywhere everywhere has these places; Long Island is not uniquely terrible because of them. Aside from that, it’s trees, and hills, and beaches, and golf courses, and little Italian restaurants, and dinghies piled with lobster pots, and the pizza place up the street from the house I grew up in, which is owned by a guy who also bought the barber shop next door when the guy who’d been cutting hair there since the '50s died. How do you hate all that? WHY do you hate all that? Because you seem like you’re pretty sure you hate all that.
Let’s run down that why: meatheads, Jay Gatsby, Camaros with “performance-enhancing exhausts,” McMansions for the new money, Oyster Bay estates for the old, post-war, prefab supposed Levittown-ian suburban bliss that eventually banished an entire nation to milquetoast subdevelopments, lax bros, Joey Buttafuoco, Billy Joel, Billy Joel's car (which just drove through the front of your house), a bunch of Jewish kids who went to Michigan. Well let me tell you, it’s not like that at all -- some of the Jewish kids went to Indiana!
Hilarious Big 10 demographic jokes aside, I’ll more than freely admit that all of those things exist. None of them define. The accents maybe do. I don’t have one, never really did -- my mom is from Ohio, dad's from California. In normal everyday not-on-Long Island conversation, I might almost be considered newscasterly. And yet, when I go home I can’t help myself. I speak louder, and in a more clipped fashion, and say everything twice, and say everything twice. That’s how you talk like you’re from Long Island. I can see how it might get to people.
Perhaps the dedication to the accent is because, growing up, all Long Islanders think they’re New Yorkers -- as in, New York City New Yorkers (who we presume kinda also talk like that). It’s not hard to feel this way. You do field trips to the Met, or leopard-filled family time at the Bronx Zoo, or maybe a matinee performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece Cats, which really needed more leopards. When you travel, you tell people you’re “from New York.” “New York City???” “Well, Long Island.” And they have no idea what any of it means, and their wonder doesn't lessen an inch, and they ask how many times you’ve been stabbed. It makes you feel cool.
But you’re not a New York City New Yorker, something you don’t realize until you move there, later. Yet even once you’ve arrived, even once you’re a decade or two deep, you’re still a Long Islander. Long Island is a bear trap -- even if one foot is in the city, the other is back on The Island, stuck, and growing more and more infected with EVIL LONG ISLAND-NESS by the hour.
People from other places don't have this endemic handicap. Sam from Kansas can start a firm designing jackets for Weimaraners between the ages of 3 and 7.5, and move to Crown Heights, and only be Sam from Kansas when the Jayhawks game is on. Sam from Kansas is a New Yorker! He tells people that when he travels, and they ask how many times he’s been stabbed. If you’re from Long Island, though, you’re always from Long Island, and even though you grew up on the outer rim of the greatest pocket of culture this world knows, somehow, to everyone else here, that’s horrifying. It’s close enough to the city to hate blindly; Jersey feels this too. Nobody has any reason to hate whatever the hell might be in Kansas.
Born-and-bred City People don’t even spend time hating Long Island; they know they’re better, but that goes for them vs. everyone. Sam from Kansas, he has time. Sam from Kansas had to work so hard to get here. Sam from Kansas had a DREAM. Sam from Kansas’ dream was to live in the big city where they come true, not the suburban-culture Chernobyl next door. Long Islanders in the city? They didn’t toil nearly as hard. The LIRR just happened to take them there one day, and it seems so easy for them to simply go back.
And the ones still out there? Who didn’t even make it to this city? Even worse. Buncha townies. Buncha roided up jabronis. Buncha visionless saps who think that having a yard and grilling burgers for their family while the dog plays with the kids is FUN?!? Let’s hate them, right?? They’re so stupid.
With all that hate happening, Long Islanders in the city tend to hide their provenance, just to be spared The Face They Make. Everyone has a picture in their head, and the picture fucking sucks, and you’re not going to un-suck that picture no matter how many times you tell them about Bethpage Black, or Walt Whitman's house (which happens to be a block from the mall with his name on it, but let's not worry about that), or the fact that it's impossible to be more than 30 minutes from a beach, or the wonders of the Suffolk County chicken cutlet sandwich scene (North Country Village Deli represent). But their picture has been painted by a blind man with a terrible sense of perspective and shading, who has also never been to Long Island, except when he goes to Quogue every weekend, and, wow, who knew Long Island is where the Hamptons are?!?
Why would you know that? There’s no reason to know that. You get on a bus, the bus takes you to the Hamptons, and there’s something in between. They came up with an entirely different name for the Hamptons just so you didn’t have to openly confess that you spend the weekend on Long Island.
In the end, Long Island is harmless. Long Island will not steal your job, or your girlfriend, or sneak into your closet when you’re not home, and sit there silent and unmoving for hours and hours, then scare the shit out of you JUUUUUST when you’re about to fall asleep, simply to be hilarious. Islands cannot do any of these things.
And the people from there, who may at times be loud, and brash, and opinionated, and shiny-shirted, and intelligent, and thoughtful, and the owner of a Civic, and up at 3am every morning to make you the best bagels in the world, and in love with the idea of being able to sit on a boat drinking tallboys, and actually, in a lot of ways, kinda just... people? They’re pretty harmless, too.
Thrillist editorial director Ben Robinson is from Centerport, which is right between Huntington and Northport, and every single Long Islander has driven past it on 25A 7,000 times and never even noticed it once. Follow him: @BenjoRobinson.