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Thursday, January 20, 2011

root root root... for...

So here we are.
Today, I encountered a brave soul named Matt at one of my favorite gently-worn (too-old-to-be-new but still shiny) places in New York City: Luke’s Lobster, where deliciousness reigns so supreme that I will actually scale a tall stool - and display my complete lack of grace in doing so - to partake in their fruits of the sea. 
Some people are brave because they battle the waters of Maine to haul in crates of heavenly crustaceans. Others are brave because they battle a steady flow of hardened New Yorkers who suffer no fools when it comes to lunch.
Matt was brave because he was wearing a Steelers cap. Today. Three days before The Game.
I’m not that brave. Sure, black and gold runs through my veins, but you don’t mess with New Yorkers who may not actually be Jets fans but react strictly on principle when challenged with a rival logo in January. Plus, I never got myself a hat. But even my Terrible Towel knows better than to stray into enemy territory. It lives a closeted life, literally.
And then I did a little math... 
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I left when I was 17 years and 8 months old. And after college, I came to New York City, 17 years and 4 months ago.
In a very short time, I will have lived in New York City longer than I have lived anywhere else. And in four or five years, I will have spent half my life in Manhattan.
There are many yardsticks that people use to determine their worthiness of being described as a New Yorker. Some people will not accept anything less than being a native who was water-birthed in the Hudson. Others will take on the moniker when they get summoned for jury duty or register to vote. I felt like I could start using the adjective with confidence once my first New York driver’s license expired and I withstood the renewal process. But that was a few licenses ago. Now I was sitting in front of a lobster roll - whose contents no doubt favored the Patriots when it was living - and pondering where my loyalties should lie.
My birthright dictated my choice in baseball teams the second I pulled into Penn Station. As a Pittsburgher, I was forbidden from rooting for the Mets, so I became a Yankee fan. That was just as well, since I love a team with deep history. I still remember the first time I walked into Yankee Stadium, less than a year after I’d arrived in the city, and as soon as I saw that gorgeous green infield, I teared up. The ghosts welcomed me gladly. (Sadly, while the Steinbrenner memorial stadium next door is lovely, it is completely without emotion.) It also helps that the Pirates are absolutely hopeless, making torn loyalties a non-issue.
Football though, well, football is a different beast. Maybe it’s because the Jets and Giants don’t even play in this state, but I never truly adopted them. Oh, I’ll root. I’ll root when it’s necessary, and I’ll mean it... maybe even too much sometimes. But once you’ve rooted for the Steelers, you cannot root against them. Whether that is due to law or nostalgia, I’ll never be sure.
But what about the time served here? I know these streets better than the ones I grew up on. I’m heavily invested here. And after all, what is home, anyway? Is it where you hang your hat, or where you were manufactured?
I know the answer to that one. Home is here. Home is my husband and our apartment and our neighborhood. Home is our doormen and our favorite haunts and adventures around our city. Home is the right to gripe about Bloomberg and the MTA and poor cell phone reception in Midtown at lunchtime. I have given my heart to my city.
But I just can’t do it this Sunday.
And even when time slips slips slips into the future and I find  myself a hardened, hearty old bird who nurses her frozen yogurt at Bloomingdales and can hail a cab with a pinky, I think I will always be a Steeler girl. With or without the cap.
Not that I would dare to wear that hat on the subway in January. New Yorkers are not fools.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

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