Left coast/right coast – The people you meet

East Coast Rule 1: Never trust anyone. When you grow up in New York City, you take certain platitudes for granted. First among those is, “Never trust anyone as you never know who they really are.”
Mike Gold is a retired entrepreneur providing his views on the Northwest. Photo credit: Katie Stearns.

Mike Gold writes for the News of Mill Creek on a regular basis. He is a retired entrepreneur and describes himself as a, “relatively recent transplant to the West Coast. I have lived (born and raised) in the Northeastern U.S. So these observations are based upon ‘living the dream’ in the Pacific Northwest.”

As this column is named left coast/right coast, I thought it might be interesting to compare people and my impressions from both coasts:

East Coast Rule 1: Never trust anyone. When you grow up in New York City, you take certain platitudes for granted. First among those is, “Never trust anyone as you never know who they really are.”

Just think of Son of Sam. A mere postal worker who had a habit of sneaking up on parked cars and blowing the occupants away with a .44 caliber gun. To say Son of Sam had a personality disorder is sort of like saying it rains in Seattle. Really? What gave you the first clue?

Here is a sample of a letter Son of Sam wrote to famous New York Daily News Columnist Jimmy Breslin, “Hello from the Gutters of NYC which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood.”

Now isn’t this just the kind of person you want to invite home for dinner? What personality disorder? Just a typical misunderstood New Yorker going about their daily business.

West Coast: Why worry? Be happy. By comparison, other than L.A. (which in my opinion is simply New York City moved west) folks here are much more laid back. Only the Left Coast would have a place like the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Here for a great deal of money – plus a required reference letter from someone very “touchy-feely” like Dr. Phil, you get to study your navel which is, according to them, excessive introspection, self-absorption, or concentration on a single issue. They want to encourage you to learn to relax and not be passive-aggressive (example: suggesting to the group that you have fruit juice with dinner is considered too judgmental).

The Esalen Institute campus is located on the rugged coastline south of San Francisco – overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the sunsets are only exceeded (says me) by Key West, Florida – where every evening it is a tradition to gather on the town docks looking west as the sun sets, Margarita in hand listening to Jimmy Buffet sing, “Wasting away in Margaritaville.”

After a week at Esalen you are so mellow and chilled out that you will never work in corporate America again. It’s okay, as the stars will see that you, being in complete harmony with the Universe, will be “taken care of.”

East Coast Rule 2: Never make eye contact. This is especially true in heavily tourist areas such as Times Square. If you make eye contact with a typical street person, they will get right in your face and demand: a. money; b. your wallet; c. your cell phone; or d. worse.

There was a particular guy, Moondog, who hung around 6th Avenue – all year long, without a shirt wearing a Viking helmet. His specialty was playing man hole covers with a set of drumsticks in the middle of the street with no regard for traffic. The taxi drivers who saw him everyday simply honked and sped around him. Not so all the others. No wonder he’s no longer alive. Anyway, Moondog would panhandle right after each “performance.” He was not as aggressive as some of the panhandlers. If you didn’t want to give him money, you could step around him – but few did with his very imposing persona.

Another set of panhandlers is the “windshield cleaners.” They stand in the middle of all the major intersections of Manhattan with a squirt bottle of water. As you stop at the light, they, without asking, spray your windshield (I’m not certain the liquid is actually water (see Son of Sam above) then start to wipe it clean often using newspaper pages. In fact a newspaper page is very absorbent so it does take the water off the glass, but it leaves the ink from the page on your windshield so you now look at images of Son of Sam or sports photos of the New York Knicks as you drive away.

Oh, even if you yell at the top of your lungs to these miscreants to “go away” or “don’t touch my car,” they ignore you and still expect a buck or two for their efforts.

If you “don’t make eye contact” through the entire process and simply drive on as the light changes – you are greeted with a string of expletives that would put any sailor to shame.

West Coast: Contrast that with the equivalent of “eye contact” out here. Here people seem to accept everyone with a far more “open” approach.

Whenever the police capture a serial killer then interview the former neighbors, you always read, “he was quiet,” or, “he got along with everyone.” Yeah, whenever I meet someone so nice and passive, I instinctively think, “How do I know this guy is not an axe murderer?” After all he’s so “quiet.”

Oh well, this is just a vestige of growing up in New York. With my apologies to others from the same place who are probably more “normal” and less “suspicious” than I. After all, no one really knows what’s in the New York City water supply.


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