What’s Been Your Experience with Regional Customs and Stereotypes?

eggs-300x225Here in the Upper Pierogi Belt, Easter is a HUGE deal. I think it’s because 75% of the residents are Catholic. In fact, 75% of our house is Catholic… but that’s neither here nor there.

Where I’m from Easter meant a basket filled with candy for the kiddies, and a better-than-average Sunday dinner, often with extended family members. Here it’s much more.

Actual gifts are exchanged, like a mini-Christmas. And I’m talking big-ticket items, like bicycles and Playstations. Before I moved to NEPA, I’d never heard the phrase, “What did you get for Easter?” It just doesn’t compute. You get chocolate, and later ham. That’s what everybody gets for Easter.

Somebody walked up to me a few days ago, with another person in tow. They wanted me to serve as a tie-breaker in an argument they were having. “Jeff, do you and your wife exchange Easter presents?” I was asked.

“Huh? Are you serious?” I answered, which caused the guy in tow to smile, and sense victory.

“Well, did you used to, before you became burned-out and old?” she said, trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And being wildly insulting (yet accurate) in the process.

“Never,” I said. “There’s no such thing as ‘Easter presents’ outside this freaky little bubble we’re in.”

“Yes!” the guy in tow shouted, and the woman frowned with disappointment. “Every couple I know exchanges Easter presents,” she muttered, and walked away.

Hey, people can do whatever they want. It’s no skin off my scrote. It’s just strange, how certain areas of the country are so wildly different in their customs.

I know people who attribute blanket-statement stereotypes about entire sections of the U.S. My parents, for instance, believe as an absolute fact that 90% of Pennsylvanians are blowhards with an overbearing opinion on every subject. Whenever they come to visit we encounter many “normal” people along the way, but when we meet some bombastic loudmouth, they shout, “A-ha!”

I always say, “So, people who live on the West Virginia side of the border are the salt of the earth, but once you cross that line… it’s asshole city.” “Yep,” they answer. It’s sometimes infuriating, and more often amusing.

Actually, since they’ve started spending every winter in Florida — and meeting people from all over the country — they’ve softened their stance a bit. Only a bit, though.

And there are all sorts of negative stereotypes about my home state (my folks don’t care for that), the entire southeast, as well as California, etc. But I’ve lived all over, and it seems like people are generally the same. They’re just trying to get through the day, and keep the bills paid. Ya know?

However… there are customs that are unique to certain areas. And it’s slightly annoying when the people there proclaim their way as the RIGHT way. Or, worse, don’t even know there are other ways. But, differences are cool. I endorse them. It keeps things interesting. I have no problem with the folks around here throwing a second Christmas every spring. More power to ‘em. Pass the haluski.

What’s been your experience with regional customs and stereotypes? Anything to report? Or confess? Use the comments link below.

And I’ll see you guys again soon.

Have a great day!

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  • Our Harrowing Day of Dentistry, and Everybody’s Favorite Pooping Songs

    Cartoon-Tooth (1)Yesterday was strange. The older boy had all four wisdom teeth yanked, and his brother finally had his braces removed. It’s been a long-time coming.

    All this happened early in the morning, before I’d even gotten up. But when everyone came home… the bizarreness kicked in. Our older son was messed up on a full smorgasbord of drugs, and acting crazy.

    At one point I walked into the room and he was bent forward in a chair, spitting on the living room floor. I howled in protest, and he continued spitting. I got him a towel, cleaned up the bloody mess, and he just sat there with a string of drool hanging out of his mouth.

    Later, he packed teabags into his mouth. WTF?? This was some real Sid ‘n’ Nancy shit. Toney was out picking up various prescriptions, and I called her.

    “I can’t deal with this,” I said. “When will you be home?? He’s spitting everywhere… packing his cheeks with stuff from the pantry… What’s next, flour?! Navy beans? I don’t know what the hell’s going on!”

    Toney told me the doctor said he could put teabags in his mouth, to stop the bleeding. So, at least there was some context to that weirdness. But he wasn’t really responding to me, and totally out of it.

    Finally, she returned and took over. It was disturbing, and stressing me out.

    “I guess mothers are wired differently,” Toney said.

    “That, or I’m just a pussy,” I offered, and received no response. I quickly got ready, and went to work — a little earlier than normal.

    Turns out, there was some wackiness with the younger boy, too. The orthodontist had been stringing him along, repeatedly saying she’s going to remove his braces, then wanting to give it four more weeks. This happened at least twice, and she tried to do it again yesterday.

    The boy snapped, and went off on the whole staff. The doctor was yelling at him, he was yelling back, and eventually started crying. I guess it was a bad scene, and Toney told the orthodontist to just take the braces off. Enough was enough.

    They fitted him with a retainer, and made them hang around until it was ready. Toney said the younger youngling just sat silently in the waiting room, seething with anger. When they got home, she asked him where the retainer was. And he said he threw it into a trash can on the way to the car!

    I know I should be mad at him, but I’m not. In fact, it makes me laugh. As far as I can tell, his teeth are perfect. It’s time to move on. Seriously.

    The good news? Both are home today, because of Easter, and are doing well. The older boy is acting like a normal human being again, and his brother is watching Beavis and Butthead, eating ice cream. I’ll probably go in at the regular time today.

    On an unrelated note… I walked into a bathroom the other day, and took my place in front of a urinal. Beside me was a stall, and somebody was in there dumping and stinking the place up. People are disgusting. I could hear grunts, and low-grade thrashing about. What the hell, man?

    And once I’d settled in to the task at hand, I realized the dumper was listening to music. Apparently he had earbuds in, and the volume was so high I could actually make out the song: “Shattered” by the Rolling Stones. With my shirt pulled up to cover my mouth and nose, I stood and pondered the appropriateness of the tune. Is “Shattered” a good pooping song?

    I never really came to a conclusion, so I’ll let you guys handle it. If it’s NOT an appropriate song, what would be better? And why? Please use the comments section below to help me find closure on this important issue.

    And I’ll be back on Sunday or Monday.

    Have yourselves a great weekend, my friends!

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    Daytripper: Our Saturday in Manhattan

    NYC1 (2)

    On Saturday we went to New York City, to celebrate the older boy’s 18th birthday. It was on-again, off-again and I wasn’t sure the trip was actually going to happen until Friday evening. Too much chaos. There’s no planning anymore… gone are the days of the planning.

    At the beginning of the week “they” were saying it would be rainy and 55 on Saturday, which didn’t sound very good. But it turned out to be perfection. It was sunny and warm: the first gorgeous day of the year. Stuckes, the ancient god of travel, was cutting us a break.

    The older boy’s girlfriend went with us, and we left our car at a Park ‘n’ Ride in beautiful Secaucus, NJ. As soon as we got there a bus pulled up, and we were in a frenzy trying to buy tickets. We miscounted, due to the rush, and when it got to me… we were out of tickets.

    The driver sighed with annoyance, but told me to go pay and he’d wait for me. And as soon as I stepped off the bus he closed the door and drove off. WTF??

    Well, I guess I’ll be taking the next bus, I thought. So I leisurely bought myself a ticket, and went back outside. And the bus was stopped, about a football field away. The driver stepped off and yelled, “You coming, or not?!” And I had to jog a great distance, for reasons unknown. What was with this guy? I certainly hope he was enjoying himself.

    NYC2 (2)

    Toney informed me the birthday boy wanted to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. “What?!” I whisper-shouted. “It’s like Friday’s with guitars. In fact, I think Friday’s has guitars.”

    “Well, that’s where he wants to go,” she said, drawing the negotiations to a close.

    They told us it would be an hour wait, which made me grind my molars for a couple of seconds. But whatever. I’ve gotten pretty good at rolling with it. Much better than I was ten years ago. The place was pandemonium, and we found a semi-quiet spot to hole up for sixty minutes.

    The kids left and wandered around Times Square for a while. And Toney and I chatted with a Hard Rock employee, who was very friendly. She lives in Queens, ya know, and commutes every day.

    The meal was fine, but WAAAAY over-priced. I think a little poop came out when I saw the check. Sweet sainted mother of Harold Hecuba! But again… just roll with it.

    NYC3 (2)

    Something kinda funny happened there, though. Toney told our cool-cat waiter that the boy was having a birthday, and he said, “Great! We’ll hook him up with a free dessert later. We don’t do all that embarrassing stuff here. It’ll be cool.”

    And after lunch was finished he brought out a sundae with a candle in it. Then he asked our son to go with him, to “meet a few people.” They walked out into the middle of the floor, and the waiter let out some kind of insane Tarzan yell, and the place went quiet. The music went off, everybody stopped talking, and it was total silence.

    “May I have your attention? This is my man’s eighteenth birthday today, and on the count of three I want everybody to wish him a happy birthday!” the waiter hollered, at a stadium volume. Yeah, very subtle.

    Then we started walking. We cut through Central Park, which was packed-out. The weather was perfection, and folks were taking advantage of the situation. The older boy and his girlfriend wanted to go the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we walked all the way up there — which was about two miles.

    NYC4 (2)

    And then Toney, the younger boy, and I kept walking. We ended up inside some crazy candy store, called Dylan’s Candy Bar. Upstairs there is an actual bar, and Toney had a Pop Rocks martini. I just had a bowl of ice cream, and a gallon of water. We still had a shitload o’ walking to do, and I had no desire for booze.

    We were on the Upper East Side, home of the zillionaires. Very fancy, indeed. We just wandered around, went into some stores, etc. No plan, no hurry. But plenty of walking.

    We gave the museum-goers a three hour window, and once that closed they called and we told them where to meet us. NYC feels so safe, and easy to navigate now. I first went there in 1978, or thereabouts, and it was a crime-ridden shithole. Or, that’s what it felt like to me, anyway. Not anymore. I had no qualms whatsoever in letting the boy and his girl walk to the Central Park bench we’d staked out. It was twenty blocks or so.

    NYC5 (2)

    It was getting dark as we made our way back to Port Authority, and the bus to Secaucus. I snapped the photo at the top with my phone, in the middle of Times Square. It almost looks computer generated, but ain’t.

    The second photo is our view from inside the Hard Rock Cafe, while we waited, and waited, and waited. Then, of course, Central Park. That’s followed by a rare photo of my son and his girlfriend on a sunny day. And finally, the view from our park bench, as we waited on them to return from the museum. All the photos are clickable, in case you’re interested.

    We got home around midnight, and the next morning I felt like I’d been run over by a street sweeper, and dragged for a few blocks. I know we walked ten miles, maybe more. But it was pretty close to perfect: no problems, no stress, great weather…

    Some other semi-interesting things happened, too. But I’m out of time here. We’ll catch up next time. How’s that sound?

    Have yourselves a great day, my friends!

    Now playing in the bunker
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