I stayed for 26 years — long enough for me to feel more like a New Yorker than a Californian. It got to the point where California barbs no longer phased me. Sometimes I would even join in.
Moving to San Fran was a homecoming of sorts. Though I grew up in Los Angeles, 400 miles to the south, the Bay Area felt inexorably like California. Every once in a while I would catch a whiff of something — a flower, the air, I’m not sure what — that would take me back to my youth.
At first everything felt so novel to me that I hardly missed New York at all. When I began going to clubs and sitting in, the caché of being from New York helped. People here may not necessarily like New York, but they respect it. Finally, all of those years of dues-paying had begun to pay off. I am rarely, if ever intimidated on the bandstand. My playing is aggressive, and tempos never faze me.
At first I felt guilty about saying that I was from New York, because after all, I am really from California, and if you want to get technical, I was born in Pennsylvania. The truth is that I’ve lived in New York longer than California, so why not? Besides, in the interest of full disclosure, I almost always mention that I grew up in California.
I have tried very hard not to cop an attitude about being from New York, first of all, because I don’t want to alienate people, and second of all, I remember how much that same attitude pissed me off back in the day.
While I haven’t experienced an anti-New York bias anywhere near the anti-California bias of New Yorker’s, there was a noteworthy incident last week. I was on a gig up in Sonoma County. It was one of those nights — I didn’t like the club, the music wasn’t hooking up, and by the fourth hour I found myself in a foul mood. A friend of the bass player’s resembled Dick Cheney, and possessed a quiet, yet contrarian manner. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it seemed that whatever I said he would find a way to disagree.
When he made a back-handed comment about New York City I reached my boiling point. There was something about the matter of fact way he said it, as if to imply that putting down New York is the most natural thing in the world. I fixed him a steely eyed look and quietly responded, “That’s funny that you say that, because almost everyone in New York hates California. They consider it lightweight.”
“Really?!” He stammered. I could tell immediately that my little retort had hit home. The thing is, I’ve lived half of my life in both places. I am perfectly positioned to put any of these motherfuckers in their place, regardless of the coast!
Now, as my trilogy comes to a close, I will leave you with these parting words: This provincialism business exists everywhere. Forget about it. New York, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, Japan…we’re all a bunch of insecure assholes.
And you know what? The East Bay rules!