This may actually be a bit of a faulty title, because a lot changed in the days between conceiving this post and writing it. Until Monday morning I really had no idea how my employment would be arranged once we moved out to California. Would I be able to remain a full-fledged employee and keep my status as art director? Or would I be relegated to the post of a contract worker and have to essentially set myself up as a business, buy all my own equipment and pay my own taxes? All in all, I wasn’t extremely worried about the outcome either way, and knew it would work out (like everything else inexplicably has).
But, as it turns out, California laws will allow me to remain an employee to the company in the way that I am now, my boss can give me a computer, a happy raise and vacation time, and all is well. And that also means that I’ll be visiting the Boston office a few times a year, and will be able to delay some of the finality of the big move.
It’s natural for someone who is moving far away to focus on all of the exciting things that the new place will offer, and I certainly am doing that every day. In fact, several lyrics from the song “California dreaming” have already snuck into a few of my recent Facebook updates. Not to mention how glad I am to get out from under my upside-down mortgage, the sump-pump in our basement and our unbearably annoying neighborhood.
And then the other day I thought to myself: but what about all of the things I still love about New England? Surely there must be a few upsides, other than the obvious family and friends. And then after not too long, I started to get nostalgic and the list got longer in no time.
If nothing else, it was a nice exercise in remembering the most positive and wonderful features of good ole’ New England, where I have spent the first 33 years of my life.
1. The smell of the woods in the morning
Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved being outside. Sure, I had a definite city-girl streak in my early and mid twenties…but that warm, clean scent of pine, dirt, bark and dew on New England summer mornings always brings me back to my outdoorsy self. It reminds me of camping in tents as a kid, of waking up at 6am on Saturdays to take the boat out with my dad and brother before it got too crowded at the lake. It’s driving to work every morning with the windows down, inhaling the fresh New Hampshire air. And it really makes me smile.
Of course, that’s not to say the smell of West Coast sea air makes me smile any less.
2. The fresh atlantic seafood
Maine Lobster. Freshly caught that morning, thrown in a pot and served shell-on at the local beach-side restaurant by the afternoon. Seasonally priced and worth every penny. There’s really nothing like having sand in your hair from a day at the beach, a nutcracker in your hand and a whole lobster and a cup of melted butter to all yourself. Only in New England.
3. The cities
Boston is one of the most intellectual, fashionable, culturally diverse cities in America. New York City is another. And they’re both really close. In many ways I’m sick of cities, and I’ve never really loved going to New York as often as I do for work. But I have learned a great deal from being close to such trendy and relevant cities (like where to find the best sushi). And although San Diego is one of the most amazing cities, and L.A. is in its own way a mecca of sorts, there’s really nothing like the very singular grit and soul of an East Coast city.
4. The soul
Speaking of grit and soul, New Englanders have a rare and wonderful version of it. People who are from cities on the East Coast have a sturdy valor to them, one that is unflinching, unapologetic and undeniably intelligent (well, there are exceptions to the intelligent part – ask me about that another time). East Coast folks don’t trust you right away, but once they do they’ll never leave your side. They are proud, and not just of their sports teams, but also of their family members, of their well-manicured lawns, of their 60 year old family-owned restaurant.
East Coasters drive to work in blizzards and pay shit-loads of money to heat their homes. They also go to some of the best colleges in the country and become some of the best doctors and scientists in the world. They’re a bunch of hard-working people who make the best of what they’ve got, which is probably the only way to get through that miserably cold and damp month of February.
5. The “Bahston” accent
I don’t have one (and frankly I’m glad), but there’s definitely something to be said for this very singular accent. It is almost a dialect of its own, one that is exclusive to where I grew up. Moreover my entire family has one, so therefore it will always have a wicked place in my haaaaht.
The chill in the air. Brown leaves crunching underfoot on the sidewalks. Pumpkins carved into evil faces glowing spookily on window sills. Halloween theme parks with nighttime hay rides and creepy haunted houses. I know Halloween exists everywhere, but in New England it has almost the same buildup of Christmas (but without all the snow and Christian influence).
7. The first snow
I fucking hate snow. There is quite possibly only one thing I hate more than snow (namely, the ear-splitting sound of my neighbors speeding up and down the street on motorcycles at 5am). However, every winter we have our first snow of the year. And yes, I’ll admit it is always quite beautiful. It drapes the world in a perfect white blanket of chill. Inexplicably, everything goes quiet. It’s almost as if the snowfall puts a muffle on the sounds of the world, so it can be experienced by all in silent tranquility. It’s just stunning. That is, until the next morning when you’ve gotta go scrape that shit off the hood of your car before driving to work.
I’ll miss the first snow. But – really, I’m okay if I never see snow ever again in my life.
8. White Christmas
Speaking of winter, a list like this isn’t complete without a nod to the much adored White Christmas. In California I’ll likely be wearing shorts on Christmas day, and that’s probably going to be a little weird. But then again, in recent years we haven’t seen much snowfall until January anyway. Although, decorating a pine tree with the windows open might seem totally wrong. And fun.
9. The landscape
I’ve always been completely enthralled by topography. Whenever I enter a new place I love to examine the world beyond the dashboard of the car. How much sky do I see? What kind of trees are around me? Everywhere I go, stuff is different. Even when I drive to New York City a mere 3.5 hours away, I notice different foliage. Not surprisingly, Atlanta, Georgia has so many more flowering trees and plants than we do. Vermont has nothing but hilly mountains of green fur trees. Salt Lake City is disturbingly pancake flat, with enormous amounts of sky and resounding purple mountains in the distance. Wherever I go, I see what’s around me and immediately compare it to what I know.
So, all my life I have essentially lived in the middle of the woods, nestled a few dozen miles inland of the ocean. Except for the years I lived in Boston, everywhere I go, there are trees. Roads and highways are swaths cut from the edges of deep forest. Growing up, just about everyone’s back yard ended with some gnarled bushes, ancient trees and the darkness of the woods beyond.
I don’t know a lot about the land in San Diego, other than what I picked up from the few times I’ve visited and some photos from friends who live there. But what I’ve gathered so far is that there aren’t as many trees as there are bushes and canyons, and that there is a hell of a lot more beach and sky. I’m excited about the change in scenery, but I also know that I’m going to wake up every once in awhile and really miss running through the quiet, shaded woods.
10. The architecture
In New England, the city buildings are old. Many of them have been around for a few hundred years and they’re still made of stone. For these buildings, gargoyles and carvings still exist. Churches are still creepy, gray and very tall. The old architecture around here is just beautiful, and I’ll likely miss it in California, where the buildings are much newer and tend to have that Mexican-inspired adobe style. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mexican-inspired adobe style.
11. Knit hats and Uggs
And stylish winter coats. Big, fluffy sweaters. Scarves knitted from yards of thick, warm wool. I hate the cold for sure, but I do really love burying myself in some uber-warm winter attire. I know that it gets chilly in San Diego in the winter. Like, maybe 45 degrees. But, considering that you don’t even need to wear running tights to run in 45 degrees (well, at least I don’t), chances are my favorite pair of knitted Uggs probably won’t be seeing the light of day ever again.
12. The first perfect day of spring
Also known as the biggest smile on my face all year. You know the day: it’s somewhere between May 15th and June 1st. The day just springs up on you when you’re least expecting it. The sky is impossibly blue and you remember what the sun is. You tentatively open the windows and a fresh, warm breeze floods the inside of your house. For the first time in months you don’t need a jacket, and it feels exhilarating, almost naughty, to leave the house for a walk or sit in your car without the extra layers on.
The adjective I always tie to this day is “triumphant.” Because it feels like I have triumphed over something (the dreadful and dark winter), and that I’m a renewed person, ready for anything. Ready for
those 11 nice days of summer.
In San Diego, every single day is the first day of spring. Some would say that might take the special-ness out of it a little. And perhaps it will. But, I have decided that I am willing to tough it out and deal with 365 days of sunshine. I know, big sacrifice.
13. The fall
Speaking of seasons, Autumn is really my favorite, for obvious reasons. The air gets cool and dry, the trees do their colorful changing dance, and the ground turns into an orange symphony underfoot. I love the smell of fall, and I love the traditions that follow. Apple picking, pumpkin carving, impressing others with my one and only baking trick (old-fashioned apple pie). I suppose I’ve been lucky to experience all those New England autumns, because they’re just not the same anywhere else in the world.
14. No sales tax
Well, in New Hampshire anyway. What’s the sales tax in California these days? 23 percent?
15. Living close to history
About two miles from my current home in Derry, New Hampshire, lies the farmhouse of the late and great poet, Robert Frost. For several years my commute to work cut through the site of the historical battlefields at Lexington and Concord. I once went on a school field trip to Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau imagined some of his best writing. I got one of my tattoos in Plymouth, the first town in America. The colorfully historical witchy town of Salem, Massachusetts, where Halloween is at its hallowest, is located less than 25 miles from where I live. And so forth.
Massachusetts is the oldest place here, and filled with so much cultural significance. I am lucky to live in a place of such rich American history. I can’t exactly put into words why, but makes me a little sad to give up that small glory.
What do you love about New England?