On the Feeling of Belonging

 

It’s question often asked and answered, if you live in New York City: “Where are you from?” It’s an easy conversation starter, and since countless residents of the Big Apple are born elsewhere, the answer is often interesting. People flock to the city not just from around the country but also from around the world.

Though I have lived in this place for nine years, I am not a New Yorker.

Once, long ago — I guess, maybe, in college — I was playing Trivial Pursuit with my room mate, her friend from Minnesota, and some other friend of ours. The young woman from Minnesota took her turn and drew a card. The question on the card was, “Name three New England states.” She answered, “Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York.” It is, undoubtedly, in keeping with a character flaw of mine that I rather loudly expressed my contempt for her utter lack of geographical, historical, and cultural knowledge, and her inability to accurately answer a most basic, third-grade level question. (By the way, Connecticut is perhaps technically a New England state, but half of its residents root for the New York Yankees, so…)

I was born in the state of Maine. I am not a New Yorker. I find that New York City is oppressive. The buildings loom over you, grinding you down into the endless cement. The feeling of impending doom lurks in every crowd.

When my wife and I were on vacation last year in Glacier National Park, various people — waiters, hotel clerks, B&B owners, fellow hikers — asked us, “Where are you from?” We always answered with a qualification, “Well, we live in Brooklyn, New York, but we’re from Maine originally.”

I’m from Maine. But am I still a Mainer?

I don’t know.

One week from today, my wife and I drive to New Hampshire to close on a house that was built in 1790, when George Washington was president. We’ll take up a load of our belongings then, but most of our things we’ll move up in a month.

Moving is a big ordeal, it’s stressful. Buying a house in another state, 300 miles away, makes it all the more so. But it is also exciting, exhilarating, and liberating.

New York city has an 8.7% sales tax, New Hampshire has no sales tax. New York City has a 9% income tax, New Hampshire has no income tax (though it does have a tax on capital gains). Our monthly payment for the mortgage, real estate taxes, and home insurance will be $400 less than we currently pay in rent. My Brooklyn Congressional district is 90% Democrat. New Hampshire is somewhat more balanced.

We’ll be arriving just in time to vote for Scott Brown, and we’re looking forward to the 2016 primary season! Our new town is next door to Mitt Romney’s house on Lake Winnipesaukee. We both have family in New Hampshire and southern Maine.

I have never been willing to call myself a New Yorker. I am perhaps no longer a Mainer. “New Hampshireman” sounds a bit clunky.

I am a New Englander, and I feel like I am going home.

There are 46 comments.

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  1. Tuck Inactive

    I was born in Manhattan. I do root for the Yankees, when I watch baseball. I’d never call myself a New Yorker, although technically I am, of course.

    My grandfather was born in Maine, and we summered there. Every time I get to Maine I feel like I’ve arrived back home. I guess it’s in the blood.

    I’m very jealous of your move to NH. Lucky you.

    (You’re missing part of a sentence in your post, btw, after “Democrat. New Hampshire”)

    • #1
    • September 19, 2014, at 10:24 AM PDT
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  2. MarciN Member

    New Hampshire is the best state in New England.

    Before you embark, or perhaps on your way, you should read one of my favorite poems: Robert Frost’s “New Hampshire.” Then maybe “Birches.”

    What a beautiful time of year to be moving there.

    Enjoy your new antique home.

    • #2
    • September 19, 2014, at 10:29 AM PDT
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  3. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur Post author

    Tuck:

    (You’re missing part of a sentence in your post, btw, after “Democrat. New Hampshire”)

    Thanks! I had started a thought and got distracted. I’ve edited it now.

    • #3
    • September 19, 2014, at 10:29 AM PDT
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  4. Jennifer Johnson Inactive

    I’ve lived in my current town for 26 years, but I’m not from there. I’m from the town of my birth, even though we only lived there until I was ten. I wish we had never moved from there.

    • #4
    • September 19, 2014, at 10:29 AM PDT
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  5. EThompson Inactive

    While living in NYC, I spent many a summer vacation on Lake Champlain in your neighboring state of Vermont. Politics aside, the people and the scenery were absolutely charming. I miss it and envy your “new digs.”

    • #5
    • September 19, 2014, at 12:51 PM PDT
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  6. Mendel Member

    I just got back from a trip during which I met new people about every 20 minutes, and the first question out of everyone’s mouth is always “where are you from?”

    I’ve lived in California for the last three years, but I invariably told people I’m from New Hampshire. Haven’t lived there for about 11 years now, but there’s no doubt to me about where I belong.

    Hope you enjoy your new home, AA. What region of NH, if I may ask?

    • #6
    • September 19, 2014, at 2:19 PM PDT
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  7. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur Post author

    Tuftonboro.

    • #7
    • September 19, 2014, at 2:49 PM PDT
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  8. Pilli Inactive

    Grew up in E. Tennessee. Haven’t lived there for 30 years. When I go back to visit, I hear the accent, see the beautiful mountains, hear the Meadowlarks and Mocking Birds and know that I’m home. I’m from Tennessee.

    • #8
    • September 19, 2014, at 2:59 PM PDT
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  9. Sandy Member

    And here I’ve been thinking of you as Mr. Brooklyn. This requires a re-orientation.

    • #9
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:06 PM PDT
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  10. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I was born and raised in Seattle. Went to grad school in Minneapolis. When I graduated, there was a recession on, and after a few months of looking, we pulled up stakes and came back to Seattle, deciding we’d rather be unemployed here than gainfully employed in Minnesota (we never did get used to 98 degrees and 98 percent humidity). We drove in separate cars with all our stuff, and we both said we had tears in our eyes finally crossing the last floating bridge into town.

    • #10
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:08 PM PDT
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  11. Von Snrub Inactive

    Interesting. It’s good to hear the right people are moving to the amazing state.

    On the side of identity, I very much feel like I’m from Brooklyn. I’ve lived here for eight years, but I went to coney island every summer from the time I was a child.

    I guess I’ve always been a New Yorker, being from the state, but most of my family is from NJ. However, both my parents spent a considerable part of their youth in NYC and I think they ingrained a love for the city in me.

    • #11
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:19 PM PDT
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  12. Ben Lang Member

    I’m a Colorado Native – Natives here appear to be a minority in a state that is full of people who moved here from somewhere else. My wife for instance, is from Rochester, NY – my father came here from Central NY (Cortland area) in the early 1970’s. Its a very transient place. When my wife and I first got married we found it difficult to keep new friends very long; as everyone we met would live here in their 20’s for a few years to have adventures, decide next to have babies and then move back to where they had family (usually in the Midwest).

    I can’t imagine being from anywhere but CO, I am a Coloradoan through and through. Mountains, The Denver Broncos, Skiing and 300 days of sunshine :-) There is a real sense of belonging that I feel here.

    Plus as a native I get this awesome bumper sticker…

    CONative

    • #12
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:19 PM PDT
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  13. Casey Inactive

    I’m from Pittsburgh.

    • #13
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:29 PM PDT
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  14. Juliana Member

    Usually when someone asks I’ll say I’m from Illinois. Illinois is a nice place to be from. Grew up in Joliet, and although I’ve lived more than half my life in Minnesota I still don’t feel like I fit in.

    The place I feel at home is actually the Wisconsin Dells. We’ve vacationed there, usually a couple times a year, for the past 20 years or so and I love how beautiful and peaceful the river and lake can be, even with the tourists. St Cecelia’s Church is my spiritual home, and our whole family was sad when we learned the long-time pastor had died. It’s really the only place I think I could move to, take a deep breath, and say “I’m home.”

    • #14
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:39 PM PDT
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  15. ParisParamus Member

    Sad to see someone interesting and sane leave Brooklyn (well, at least interesting…).

    I’m “from” the NYC suburbs, which in retrospect were, and still are oppressively boring, and seemingly populated by uninteresting people. I don’t think I ever felt comfortable with the social pressures of little league, high school sports, and shopping malls. But while I like brownstone Brooklyn (but not Manhattan), I don’t want to be “from here” either.

    Where am I from? I’m not sure. “the country” is great for a while, then it gets kinda empty (although, perhaps less so now with the ‘Net and smart phones?)

    I think Brooklyn-New Hampsire bi-residential existence, replete with a parking space, a nice car, and an old house “up there” sounds perfect.

    But I’m still not sure where I’m from…

    • #15
    • September 19, 2014, at 3:58 PM PDT
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  16. Basil Fawlty Member

    “Although for many years he’d traveled out of Chicago, he seemed to think of the Hill as home.”

    Morte D’Urban

    • #16
    • September 19, 2014, at 5:06 PM PDT
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  17. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    For personal reasons, I’ve given much thought to moving to the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps Canada. But in my heart, I will always be a Texan.

    • #17
    • September 19, 2014, at 5:42 PM PDT
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  18. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    AA, be sure to give all our best to Mark Steyn, last Undocumented Guest Host Before The Border.

    • #18
    • September 19, 2014, at 6:31 PM PDT
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  19. TeamAmerica Member

    I say I’m from New York, because I grew up in the Bronx and Staten Island. Technically, I’m a Southerner, as I was born in Miami, though both parents and both siblings were born in NYC.

    • #19
    • September 19, 2014, at 6:46 PM PDT
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  20. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur Post author

    RushBabe49:AA, be sure to give all our best to Mark Steyn, last Undocumented Guest Host Before The Border.

    I’ll go all weak in the knees if I run into him at the local grocery store.

    • #20
    • September 19, 2014, at 7:22 PM PDT
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  21. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Albert Arthur:

    RushBabe49:AA, be sure to give all our best to Mark Steyn, last Undocumented Guest Host Before The Border.

    I’ll go all weak in the knees if I run into him at the local grocery store.

    Maybe he and Jessica Martin will drop by and sing Christmas carols.

    • #21
    • September 19, 2014, at 7:32 PM PDT
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  22. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur Post author

    Mike LaRoche:

    Albert Arthur:

    RushBabe49:AA, be sure to give all our best to Mark Steyn, last Undocumented Guest Host Before The Border.

    I’ll go all weak in the knees if I run into him at the local grocery store.

    Maybe he and Jessica Martin will drop by and sing Christmas carols.

    I own those albums ;-)

    • #22
    • September 19, 2014, at 7:53 PM PDT
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  23. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Albert Arthur:

    Mike LaRoche:

    Albert Arthur:

    RushBabe49:AA, be sure to give all our best to Mark Steyn, last Undocumented Guest Host Before The Border.

    I’ll go all weak in the knees if I run into him at the local grocery store.

    Maybe he and Jessica Martin will drop by and sing Christmas carols.

    I own those albums ;-)

    So do I! They are now a staple of my iTunes rotation every Christmas.

    • #23
    • September 19, 2014, at 7:59 PM PDT
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  24. Al Sparks Thatcher

    I was born in Germany, and lived there until I was nine years old. Yet my first eight years there was spent on a U.S. Army base. So really, I was an American in Germany, and didn’t really learn the language well.

    We moved to New Mexico, but not quite New Mexico, since we were very close to Texas, and politicians call that part of New Mexico “little Texas” for a reason. So maybe I was Texan, but not quite Texan, or was it New Mexican, but not quite New Mexican? It’s called the Land of Enchantment, but where I lived the climate or the countryside wasn’t enchanting.

    Then I joined the Coast Guard, and while people asked me where I was from, I didn’t say it with much conviction. By then I had lived in New Mexico for 11 years. Really, the feeling of belonging was the Coast Guard, and not as to place, especially since like all military members, you don’t stay in one place for more than 4 years (there’s exceptions).

    While in the Coast Guard, I moved to Alaska, and stayed when I mustered out. I’ve lived in Fairbanks for 27 years, and Alaska for thirty-three. I was probably in Fairbanks 12-13 years when I realized that I had lived there longer than anywhere else. Yet, I didn’t feel Alaskan, and always qualified it when people asked me where I was from (if I was out of state).

    I don’t hunt or fish, or feel any desire to be close to the land, though most of my life I’ve lived in towns that were more rural than urban. I actually feel more at home in a urban environment, but I’m glad I don’t deal with traffic jams.

    I have made some trips to Germany, but not until I was 44 years old. I wish my Dad had never pulled me from there. I wish I belonged there, even as I know that the person I’ve become can’t stand what Germany and the rest of Western Europe has become.

    • #24
    • September 19, 2014, at 9:28 PM PDT
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  25. Guruforhire Member

    I am a very self-actualized Damn Yankee.

    • #25
    • September 20, 2014, at 5:07 AM PDT
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  26. Lee Inactive
    Lee

    Congratulations Albert! I lived in Vermont for a year but would have preferred NH for the politics. Never felt at home in VT but my Dutch ex-husband moved back there and loves it.

    I’ve lived in the Netherlands and Vermont, but I’ll always be a Hoosier (northern Indiana, specifically), even if I leave for good some day.

    While visiting my brother in Denver recently, I realized that, though Colorado is undeniably beautiful, I’d never feel completely at home in the mountains. I guess I come from a long line of people who got to Indiana and decided that was far enough, even if it was awfully flat.

    • #26
    • September 20, 2014, at 5:52 AM PDT
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  27. Lee Inactive
    Lee

    Das Blang:I’m a Colorado Native – Natives here appear to be a minority in a state that is full of people who moved here from somewhere else. My wife for instance, is from Rochester, NY – my father came here from Central NY (Cortland area) in the early 1970′s. Its a very transient place. When my wife and I first got married we found it difficult to keep new friends very long; as everyone we met would live here in their 20′s for a few years to have adventures, decide next to have babies and then move back to where they had family (usually in the Midwest).

    I can’t imagine being from anywhere but CO, I am a Coloradoan through and through. Mountains, The Denver Broncos, Skiing and 300 days of sunshine :-) There is a real sense of belonging that I feel here.

    Plus as a native I get this awesome bumper sticker…

    CONative

    A friend of mine moved to Colorado last year from Indiana, and my brother moved out in March and now lives with a high school buddy of his. When visiting him, we discovered our waitress was a Hoosier as well, so the flat-lander invasion continues.

    I gather there was a push back against that bumper sticker from some native americans, right?

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    • September 20, 2014, at 5:59 AM PDT
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  28. Cper Inactive

    Welcome to New Hampshire, Albert Arthur. I’m a Texan who lives in southern NH with my husband who is from PA. Maybe if there are enough of us here in NH we can have a Ricochet meet up at some point. Now that would be fun!

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    • September 20, 2014, at 10:37 AM PDT
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  29. Trink Coolidge

    Yes, Cper.

    A Ricochet MeetUp would be excellent. Our son is a planetary science astronomer doing research at UNH. Conservative. Universities can be tough places if you’re politically on the right.

    • #29
    • September 20, 2014, at 11:24 AM PDT
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  30. Jerry Carroll Inactive

    Lately, I’ve been telling people I was born in Manhattan. If there is no compelling need to mess with their minds, I add Manhattan, Kansas. I drove through there a few years ago on our way to California. A nice-looking university campus, but the rest of it is Dullsville. On the street where I was born there is a plaque outside the house where Damon Runyon was born. Older types might remember him. He tried to start up a minor league baseball team in Colorado before becoming a newspaperman like his father and moving to New York. The musical “Guys and Dolls” was based on a couple of short stories he wrote featuring Nathan Detroit, Harry the Horse, and other colorful characters who spoke a comic diction known as “Runyonese” that was always in the present tense. “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets” was his paraphrase of the verse from Ecclesiastes. He once met Pancho Villa in a bar in Mexico, and was a friend of Dutch Schultz’s bean counter, who was rubbed out in a mob hit. As a sportswriter, he was good enough to be named to a wing of baseball’s Hall of Fame. He died in 1946 and his ashes were scattered over Broadway in violation of the law from a DC-3 piloted by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. The first ever telethon was hosted by comedian Milton Berle in 1949 to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. This led to the later curse of Jerry Lewis, known for ankle-walking and “Hey, Laaady!” Runyon inspired Roller Derby, and his account of a 1927 murder trial was chosen in 2008 by The American Library for its two-century retrospective of American Crime Writing. None of this would have happened if he’d stayed in Manhattan, Kansas. Like I said, Dullsville. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

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    • September 20, 2014, at 11:36 AM PDT
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