I’m west-coast. I was born and bred to perceive the world in a west-coast state of mind—sorry Billy Joel. I’m a walking, talking stereotype of that laid back, have a nice day, flip-flop wearing, life is good —–West-coast kind-of-dude. It’s how I roll man, so to speak. I recently returned from a sojourn to the east coast to attend a wedding with the in-laws and I am once again reminded of the differences between the two longitudes. Neither coast is better or worse, its like most things in life, its all about the environment you’ve been marinated in—-we are all alien when entering foreign territories.
My memories of the East are pretty much incidental and insignificant. On our day trips throughout the north eastern states I was taken back by the beautiful green lush landscape. It was pretty in a dreary, sweltering, damp sort of manner. The humidity made the car seat sticky and the air was stale and muggy. It seemed strange driving through the gray rainy streets of Jersey with the windshield wipers flapping while the AC blew cool air across the beads of sweat on my forehead. This paradoxical weather was a new experience for me. I guess what they say about the weather is true, “it’s not the temperature, it’s the humidity”.
The busy schedule of attending dinners and family functions left me anxious and unsettled. I’ve never been much for small talk or cursory discussions about the fickleness of the weather. I like Mark Twains quote regarding the weather, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does nothing about it”——although many of us sure wish we could do something about it.
In my state of nervousness I either say to much and come off as loud and obnoxious or remain quiet and appear aloof and haughty. Alcohol relaxed me but it can also relax me to the point of falling down, but that’s another story yet to disclose.
What Starbucks is to the West coast, Dunkin-Doughnuts is to the East coast. The East has a prodigious showing of Dunkin-Doughnuts, all night Dinners and family Italian restaurants. The food is good out there, not all that vegetarian or vegan crap that is heralded out West as being the savior of modern civilization. You can have your raw Sushi and bland tofu, I’ll take double helpings of the deep fried clam cakes with a side of cannoli.
One of the older Italian joints we ate at had a retro-sixties motif and was equipped with a waiter sporting a thick Jersey accent. He introduced himself as Pauly. Jersey is the only state I know where big burley guys add a “Y” to the end of their names just like little boys often do. It is sort of endearing in a weird gangster kind of way. From deep down in his throat he would roll his syllables into drawn out “ahh-s” and “Ohh’s”. As traditional accordion music played in the background he addressed our table, asking if we wanted “wahh-ders‘ or “cahh-fee’s”. He boldly gestured with his hands and smirked with a self-effacing nod of approval after explaining in detail each special on the menu. His hoarse voice and sleepy Italian eyes portrayed a man who was passionate about his food.
The red sauce was almost a dark brown color with veal and large pieces of garlic providing a southern Italy flavor. The bread had a thick crust on the outside, yet moist and soft on the inside. The place and its food was old school—-I loved it.
I imagined that our waiter “Pwauhhl–eee” was most likely a respected, yet dangerous thug from neighborhood and undoubtedly a “made man”. I made a mental note to tip him accordingly. The restaurant must be a front for a numbers racket or an after hours speak easy. Who’s to say what goes on in the basement in the wee hours of the night. Like they say, what happens in Joy-zee stays in Joy-zee.
I fought off an irresistible urge to done a long black leather jacket, accessorize with gold jewelry, comb my hair back in a greasy pompadour and slap the locals on the back and comment loudly “fooh-get-abowt-it”. That’s a bit of a stretch from the weak west-coast greeting of “Peace out brah”.
The wedding was a classy affair. The bride was beautiful and the groom dashing. The reception was complete with excellent food, music and dancing. I luckily found a seat next to Ed the family patriarch who is 92 years old. He is as sharp as a tac except for his loss of hearing. We made a good pairing as he requires little conversation, he wouldn’t ask me to dance and he’s well connected. In other words, he’d protect me from any cigar chomping, violin carrying, trench coat wearing uninvited guests.