Out of the 335 days in the year that have passed so far, I have only been at my home on Long Island a calculated 27 days. Between studying abroad this past spring and living in New Paltz over the summer, this makes sense. But ultimately, this means that of all the days that have already gone by during 2016, I’ve only been home on Long Island a whopping 8 percent (yes, I really did the math).
Upon driving back for Thanksgiving break last Tuesday with my friend Jess, I felt a little anxious to finally be going home again after three months. I kind of forgot what it felt like. And aside from being happy to see my friends and family again and also being able to relax for the first time in awhile, I remembered my love-hate relationship with this strange island I call home. So I’ve compiled a list.
Top 5 things I hate about Long Island:
1. The traffic. If you’ve ever driven to or on Long Island, you understand how bad it usually is. Between the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and the Southern State Parkway, driving on the Island can be a nightmare, especially when you’re sharing it with around 7.6 million other people. Because of all the congestion we face on the roadways, drivers tend to get aggressive, causing accidents and worsening the already-bad traffic jams.
2. Seeing people from high school no matter where you go. Despite its small size, Long Island is surprisingly overpopulated. When I was home this weekend, I saw at least 10 random people from high school, whether at the library, the bar, the supermarket or the drugstore. I saw some people I enjoyed catching up with and others I awkwardly smiled at and walked away from, or really just tried to avoid. So, it’s a mixed bag.
3. You have to drive everywhere. Living on Long Island is certainly not like living in good ol’ New Paltz. You can’t walk into town in 15 minutes. Driving is more or less a necessity, especially if you want to go out at night. You pretty much have to rely on a designated driver, an Uber or a taxi to get you to and from your desired bar of choice, and that can get pretty aggravating. And the money spent on rides definitely adds up.
4. There are way too many shopping malls and shopping centers. Having at least one 7-11 in every town can be convenient, but there should definitely be more places on the Island like the David Weld Sanctuary, the Avalon Park & Preserve and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum. We can do without another Chipotle or LUSH being built.
5. Getting anywhere above Manhattan seems to be an arduous task. Getting through Long Island itself is hard enough, especially living as east as I do in Bohemia, or exit 59 on the LIE if that gives you more of a visual. But then you have to get through either Manhattan and the Cross Bronx or the Cross Island Expressway, which all usually have lots of traffic because every Long Islander is trying to get the hell out of this congested place we all seem to call home. Sometimes we all just need to get away from the 118 miles of madness.
Top 5 things I love about Long Island:
1. There are a lot of picturesque towns to walk around in and explore. I grew up on the South Shore, home to many a town with plenty of shops, restaurants, boutiques and short walks to the pier. To name a few, there’s Sayville, Patchogue, Bayshore, and on the North Shore, there are towns like St. James, East Northport and Port Jefferson. There are plenty others in Nassau County, like Rockville Centre and Oyster Bay, but I’m more of a Suffolk kinda girl.
2. Both Montauk and New York City are easily accessible. I can drive to Montauk in less than two hours. I can also hop on the Ronkonkoma train to Penn Station and get there in about an hour and 20 minutes. Both highly concentrated tourist spots, it’s nice to know I don’t have to go out of my way to go in either direction.
3. Some of the best pizza and bagels on Earth. This is no contest, and I think it goes without say. Bagels and pizza even up here in the Hudson Valley can’t compare with the doughy goodness of what we’ve got back home. If you ever find yourself in Bohemia, stop into Saviano’s (my personal favorite), or if you find yourself in Lake Ronkonkoma, be sure to order yourself a slice of cold cheese pizza from Little Vinny’s.
4. THE BEACH. This also goes without say. My summers would not be the same had I not grown up on Long Island. There’s Robert Moses, Smithspoint and most importantly the Hampton beaches like Cupsogue. It might be the French Riviera or the Mediterranean, but it’s certainly something that’s hard for me to live without.
5. It seems like everything is a maximum of 20 minutes away. This makes doing pretty much anything very easy. I can go to the movies, go out to eat, go to the park, the mall, what-have-you and it is all somehow within a 20-minute radius. Call it what you will, I call it a miracle.
This story first appeared in The New Paltz Oracle on December 1, 2016.