I received a doctorate in sociology with a special discipline in Long Island Human Studies from a decade in the catering and restaurant business on the Island. I have come to love this species with a strange and sick fascination and now find it difficult to remove myself from the native habitat for extended periods of time. Perhaps this is why The Daily Show’s recent segment titled Long Island Wants to Secede featuring Samantha Bee didn’t really bother me at all. (What’s that you say? You haven’t seen it? Google it and be sure to e-mail me your reaction so I can update my thesis.)
Note to everyone: When The Daily Show wants to do a piece on you, you’re probably a moron. Granting them access only serves to reinforce this, as evidenced by the skewering The New York Times received last week when they granted them access into the Gray Lady’s lair. But apparently someone in Legislator Ed Romaine’s office and Senator Carl Marcellino’s office told them that this was a good idea. (I’m begging you, if you haven’t watched this video stop reading now, watch it, then rejoin the column.) Bee was following up on a ridiculous concept that has been batted around the Island forever, which is to become the 51st state.
On the surface it seems like a lovely idea, even when Ed Romaine guffaws at the notion of flounder becoming Long Island’s official state food. We are indeed the financial crutch of the state and New York City is our anchor; a disproportionate amount of our tax dollars go to support the rest of the state compared to what Albany sends back in state aid and funding. But even though we are a beautiful and unique little snowflake of an island, it is indisputable that part of our allure is our proximity to New York City. We complement one another nicely. Besides, the state would fail without us. What we need is funding and tax reform, not a plan to secede.
What I find so interesting about this video, which included a stunning social studies lesson by three Wise Men from the South Shore, is the reaction it evokes in Long Islanders. My buddy Mike Watt, a.k.a “Mr. Long Island” is imploring everyone to remove the video from their Facebook pages. Our Managing Editor, Michael Patrick Nelson, immediately announced that he himself is ready to secede from Long Island. (Mike doesn’t count, though, because despite growing up here, he has Brooklyn sensibilities.) My wife just covered her eyes and just cringed. (She doesn’t count either, because she’s from Cape Cod.)
Me? I loved it.
The last time I laughed that hard at Long Island was at Jim Breuer’s one-man show at the Vanderbilt. Breuer did a set I have also heard on Opie and Anthony (Long Island boys, both) that could only go over on the Island. He joked about sayings from Little League like “Save my ups, dick!” and the peculiar way we have hung onto the word “mint!” as an expression of pleasure.
Here is my underlying theory about Long Islanders that outsiders don’t understand: We’re just like everyone else, only more pronounced. This is the land of exploding stereotypes. But once you have lived here long enough you become immune to them. Or as Red explained to his friend Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, you become “institutionalized.”
Take my mother, originally from Canada, who just returned from a trip to Idaho, for example. She had a terrific time, but when I asked her about the people, she seemed troubled by how nice and accommodating they were. In fact, she thought they were eerily “Canadian.” This is a classic case of being institutionalized. If you have trouble dealing with smiling people who seem to have all the time in the world to give you directions… congratulations, you’re a true Long Islander now.
Am I sorry the rest of the world got a peek up Long Island’s skirt in this video? I suppose. But if it prevents people in New Jersey from moving here, then I guess it worked out OK. In answer to whether or not we should secede…of course not. But we are a unique breed. A family. And like any good family it’s funny when we make fun of ourselves, but when someone else does it—not so much. Unless you’re The Daily Show, in which case, nice job. Dicks.