Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Toast to Being From "The In-Between"

Point O' Woods at Sunset
South Lyme, Conn.
July 22, 2009

The biggest thing I miss about Connecticut, believe it or not, is being in-between. I grew up in Connecticut, and I returned to the Connecticut shore this week for a mid-summer vacation.

Connecticut has a bit of an identity problem. Situated between New York City and Boston, Connecticut is in-between. My home state is part of New England, but it is also one of the tri-states (N.Y., N.J. and Conn.). Parts of Connecticut have a New York accent, parts have a Boston accent, and still others (including me) aren't really sure what our accent is (I don't pronounce w's that come after r's, whatever that means).

I often describe the state as being split in two by the Connecticut River. To the west of Connecticut river, the state is essentially an offshoot of New York, and most hail from the Empire State. To the east, New England influence dominates, and the attitude is different.

In college at BU, being from Connecticut meant hearing an endless series of complaints about the state, since most people drove through it to go home. The traffic was horrible. The rest stops were far between. And Connecticut had left-hand exits that made directions confusing. Oh the horror. Connecticut was the drive-through state. To many, Connecticut simply meant Route 84.

So far this week, I actually have enjoyed being back in-between. Stores here sell the Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and the New York Times (as well as the hyper-local New London Day). I can watch the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox each night. I can choose between Boston or New York local news.

I brought a New York Yankees sweatshirt with me. On a visit to the supermarket in Old Saybrook (a few miles southwest of South Lyme, where I am for the week), I ran into no less than three fellow Yankee fans who patted me on the back or gave me the thumbs up.

Each year, my hometown newspaper, the Norwich Bulletin, would write a story about how a certain spot in Norwich was exactly equidistant between Boston and New York City. The story inevitably came the night before the first game in the seasonal Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. The story chatted with fans on both sides, and came to the conclusion that the mixture of fans made life more interesting. I can't help but think that the general in-between-ness of the state does make Connecticut interesting.

I am sure the Connecticut identity crisis has benefited me. I appreciate distinct identities, like Boston's, more, and I would guess I am more open to them. By the same token, it's somewhat nice to be back where you see the mesh of different identities. It's nice to be back where Boston and New York City meet.

[For the record, I grew up east of the Connecticut River; my family presents many New England characteristics.]

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