East Coast vs. West Coast, Part One: The Stereotype of Rude New Yorkers

I’ve split my time primarily between New York and California for the better part of 50 years. I can speak on this.

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Hold a second.

Is the concept of the rude New Yorker a myth, or a stereotype?

I prefer the former, though I know if I went there I’d be deluged with example after example of readers saying they’ve had horrific experiences with my east coast brethren.

So “stereotype” it is.

For the moment.

I was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, on January 14,1964. All told, I’ve lived 23 years in New York — between Brooklyn, Queens and Middletown, counting some moves — and 29 years in Southern California.

For the record, nearly four years were spent in Aurora, Colorado … which has nothing to do with this article.

I love New York. I graduated from Brooklyn College with a B.A. degree in Special Education, and spent one day nearly every weekend in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park, leaning against trees working on my writing craft.

I spent an inordinate amount of time writing some truly bad poetry … but thankfully that aspect of my writing career-in-progress I gave up on early.

It’s all prose and screenplays now.

The remainder of those weekends were spent uptown, usually around the Central Park area and regardless of the winter snow.

I never stayed over; I took the subways at all hours back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan. They were graffiti-ridden at the time, and not necessarily known as the safest method especially of nighttime transportation though I was never bothered.

Yesterday:

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Today:

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I lived in New York City when Times Square looked like this …

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… and this:

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I was a hardcore New Yorker. A little thick in the head at times, maybe, but hardcore. I never considered my weekend trips as unnecessarily risky.

They may well have been, truth be told, but the thought did not enter my mind back then.

Though living in California for much of the last 25 years, my New York roots run deep and I return to my hometown frequently.

Many of my late relatives entered the state through Ellis Island; my own Jewish identity was largely shaped as a New Yorker. Though I was never religious, I’ve considered myself a strong cultural Jew since my upbringing. This is important to mention here in the sense that so much of my identity — as a Jew, as a man and as a writer — was shaped back in my New York days.

I will never forget those days.

To the statement posed in this article’s title, I never considered New Yorkers “rude” as a matter of course. There is an old adage when a New Yorker refers to California: “In New York, they stab you in the front.”

By and large, most New Yorkers I know are gregarious, fun-loving, and wise. Not because they live or had lived there, but because being a New Yorker is a way of life. Most were raised, as was I, with a strong sense of “neighborhood,” and/or of family values. When I visit we reminisce about “the good old days,” about Pip’s Comedy Club on Sheepshead Bay’s Emmons Avenue, the late, lamented Shatzkin’s Knishes in Coney Island (the “31 Flavors” of knishes), Lundy’s, stickball, paddleball, or even the mob.

Donald Trump, yeah him, comes up in conversation with some frequency. “Back in the day” he was a New York tabloid fixture, considered by many of us loudmouths as the biggest blabbermouth of them all, consistently filing for bankruptcy or being photographed with women other than his wife at the time.

Not a cheap shot, folks, despite my politics. It’s truth, or what some of us prefer to call “being real.”

Many New Yorkers I know are like me, largely outspoken and opinionated, and would talk to anybody.

From street knish and hot dog vendors — though I’m vegan now, I’ll never forget the deliciousness of those dogs with the barbecued red onions — to the glow of both the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty at night, New York and its boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island) are like no other places on the planet. Each has their individual identities.

Visit a restaurant in Manhattan’s Little Italy and yes, those locals who are dining — Italian and not — sound like Robert De Niro or Joe Pesci. Everyone has a great time.

I’ve never known New Yorkers to be “rude” because they’re New Yorkers. It’s a fabrication. When my wife and I, now both presently living in California, go out for Chinese food, as soon as I hear the familiar accent from other customers it becomes like old home week.

We all begin to yap.

Besides, bagels, pizza and Chinese food really is better in New York than Cali. Sorry, my west coast peeps. That for sure is no myth.

I have nothing but love for my forever home town of Brooklyn … and my state of New York.

Of late, though, my heart is breaking.

We are so, so much better than this.

Please, whatever it takes, this scourge needs to end.

Of course such hatred is not relegated to New York. This scourge is global. But it breaks my heart to see such loving people of all stripes, in my “home,” bear witness to this.

New Yorkers are living in an era when our beloved state is considered among the very top of the list in our country for hate crimes.

Many of those bearing witness to this horrific revival survived, or have (had) relatives who perished, in Nazi camps. And now they’re seeing it for themselves.

For everyone reading this, New Yorkers are not rude people, or haters, or murderers. As with anywhere, the dregs of humanity exist and appear when least expected.

Yes, it’s absolutely true some New Yorkers are racists and hustlers. Some have mob ties.

Some have committed worse atrocities than you can imagine.

Please do not define us as any of that, though, because that is not representative of the majority. That “majority” to which I’m referring is every person of every skin color I’ve chosen to spend time with and whose paths have crossed mine, however fleetingly, during all those years.

There sure were some colorful characters in that mix, though.

Sons of bitches live there as anywhere, but by and large I’ve seen more New Yorkers figuratively take the shirts off their backs to help someone who needs it than the converse.

I’ve seen more strangers than I can count helping elderly men and women cross the street. I’ve seen them (on television, as I was living in Los Angeles at the time) band together to help survivors and fire fighters during and after 9–11.

I am so proud when I think of all the good I’ve seen.

That is my perspective.

This is my New York ...

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Thank you for reading.

UPDATE 1/5/2020

The day after I posted this story, the following was shared on my Facebook:

Thank you, my New York!

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Joel Eisenberg is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. The Oscar in the profile pic isn’t his but he’s scheming. WGA and Pen America member.

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