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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.