East Coast vs. West Coast
A lot of times when my lovely wife, Justine, and I are having a...disagreement...and I start getting worked up, my arms flailing, I get accused of yelling. Of course, I'm not yelling. I'm a 21st Century sensitive man. This is just how I talk. I'm an East Coast Italian. I am discussing things logically (if passionately) in a calm, rational manner, and feel though she is being typically NorCal / new-agey overly sensitive. From my POV, it's pretty much like this.
Of course I realize I am oversimplifying, and that perception is 9/10ths of the law. I am big, gruff man, and when I get stirred out the half-dead complacency this world forces me to be lulled into, it probably does sound like yelling to her. Because people don't talk like that out here. But where I come from, that's just how we talk, how we communicate. I grew up in a house of loud voices, my friends all had loud voices, and we'd shout and sometimes have fistfights over whether to go to McDonalds or Burger King. Fuck, I don't think my buddy Jimmy and I used our quiet voices until we reconnected in 2006. But that's not how they do it in Northern California, where there is probably an ordinance against speaking loudly for fear it will disturb some dumb woodland creature or butterfly.
I brought this up with my psychiatrist, Dr. Goldman, who said maybe it's a cultural difference. I am, after all, Italian ("Clifford?" you say. "That doesn't sound Italian." To which I say, Fuck you. I am more Italian than anything else. My grandfather was a full-blooded Sicilian. And I'd love nothing more than to post the Walken/Hopper clip in True Romance here, but it uses a bad word we just don't say anymore. It's all over You Tube, if you want to see it).
Cultural? Perhaps. I see it more as an East Coast vs. West Coast thing. On the East Coast we are passionate. We use our hands. We are wound tightly and intense about everything. We get riled up over sandwiches.
My friend Matt likes to say an individual's anxiety level is directly proportional to how close once grew up to New York City. I was an hour away. I am one anxious mutherfucker.
I have lived on the West Coast now for about as long as I lived on the East. It's weird, because there is so much about the culture out here I abhor (http://tinyurl.com/), especially the legislative-happy, do-gooding crusaders (seriously, if a kid bumps his head, within 6 hours someone is trying to pass a law requiring kids to be encased in Sytrofoam and not walk without adult supervision, which is doubly offensive, since it not only hinders one's right to not wear a fucking motorcycle helmet, it also usurps individual authority of one's own life. Maybe we'll talk about that later). I also hate, in no particular order, yoga pilates bicycling organic skinny jeaned hipsters. But there is something here you don't get anywhere else: you are free to be whoever you want. Which is a big fucking deal, and really trumps all.
You don't get that on the East Coast. I may loath dirty stinking hippies, but I recognize their right to exist. Just like I am granted the liberty to fly my own freak flag high, however I define it. You don't get that lack of judgment back east. It's not that everyone in SF supports all these far-out, left-wing causes; they merely embrace personal freedom, which gets talked about in a lot of place but not implemented so much. And, yes, there is a difference between "individual authority of one's own life" and "personal freedom." The Bay Area is big on you being whomever you want to be. Gay. Straight. Bohemian midget farmer in assless chaps who makes sculptures out of fermented radishes. But, goddammit, they want you to be safe.
I ran away from the East Coast when I was 19 because I felt stifled. There just wasn't enough room for me in CT to be the unconventional artist type I saw myself becoming. I know NYC has its quirky and odd. But I wanted to get away from the anxiety, not become further entrenched in it. Of course, you can't really outrun anxiety. You take it wherever you go.
What's weird is that while I like it much better on the West Coast, and in particular, the SF Bay Area, which I now call my home, if a civil war were to break out between the two, a new millennium Confederate vs. Yankee, I honestly don't know for which side I'd fight.
Because as much as I agree with West Coast sensibilities, I am still an East Coast boy, through and through. It's in my blood, who I am. The West Coast is less anxious, more laid back, better educated (in general) and all that. People out here are friendlier. On the surface. A lot of guys I know from the East Coast, I thought were dicks when I first met them. And we probably fought a lot. And they might still be dicks, and if you overheard us talking, you might think we were fighting. But my deepest friendship originated on the East Coast. Takes a while to get to know people back there, but once you do, they're true blue. The West Coast? You get more dinner parties, wittier banter, more casual Latin references dropped. But if I need a kidney, I'm asking my buddy in CT, Jimmy. (Well, probably not actually Jimmy. But not because he wouldn't give me one. Its just his organs are kinda pickled at this point. Then again, maybe I can pull out my assless chaps and start sculpting again.)
You don't easily shake the parts that make you who you are. They say that your basic personality is formed by age five. That's what I grew up with. I am an East Coast boy. Talking loudly and gesturing with your hands. Tipping cows. Watching your father get drunk in a field on your 13th birthday. Almost makes me homesick.