Still not buying the bicoastal thing

Last month, while spending a week in Aspen, hanging with the rich and famous -- or in my case, my cousin, who once played center field on some local softball team with Hunter Thompson in left and Jack Nicholson in right -- I got into conversation with someone from San Francisco, an artist who was taking a workshop in Colorado.

She had moved to California from New York City, where, incidentally, she attended the School of Visual Arts. She was filled with opinions, with pronouncements, with attitude.

In many cases, these are good and worthy traits. But in my mind anyone who has lived solely on the left and the right coasts, California and New York, could only be described one way.

And that is bicoastal. Which is not necessarily a good thing.

If this is prejudice, if I am prejudging someone without knowing them, then so be it. I’m prejudiced. And occasionally I’m irked. Because to

bicoastal people -- so my thinking goes -- the whole midsection of the country, including Georgia and the State of Chatham, might as well not even be on the map.

To them, we are toast, chopped liver, guacamole from a squeeze tube. We are white bread, head lettuce, packaged cheese.

I tried to hold my tongue during this cocktail party in Aspen. I tried to keep the thought private. I tried to refrain. But I couldn’t.

The first time Ms. New York-moved-to-California said something I thought a little pretentious or snooty, I came out with it.

“You think that because you’re bicoastal,” I declared.

No one picked up on it, including her, because when there are six people in on a conversation -- none of us best or old friends -- everyone is so busy filling every minute with opinion and intellect to show the rest of the group how smart we are that no one does too much listening.

Once again, when she said something I thought rather sweeping in its generalization, I repeated -- but this time to myself -- “You say that because you’re bicoastal. You can’t possibly think that anything of any worth could be going on in the Midwest, the Southeast, the Upper Midwest.”

The evening ended pleasantly enough. I did my best to leave them with positive images of Savannah. How a swim at high tide in the creek can leave your skin so soft you’d swear you just bathed in fabric softener. What a racket the tree frogs make at night or late in a summer afternoon. Deafening, really.

The sight of an orange full moon rising over the Atlantic Ocean and, on the other side of Tybee Island, another orange orb, the sun, slipping behind the Back River.

I did what I could to talk of places between New York and California, but I knew ahead of time she had never been to Door County, Wisc., would probably never visit Omaha, Neb., or Royal Oak, Mich., and probably couldn’t find Brevard, N.C., on a map.

I realize there’s a little defensiveness in my posture and a little envy, too, that in some parts of the country it’s a little easier than others to state the obvious, to declare the absence of clothes on the emperor, to find like-minded people.

I also realize that no matter where you live it takes time and patience to fight the system, lots of practice to become a better painter, concentrated effort to learn Spanish.

All over the country -- not just in New York or California -- six-year-olds are starting to play violin because parents know it develops good manual dexterity, 10-year-olds and 70-year-olds are making an effort to get up at 9 a.m. on Saturday to go to free art classes at local universities, 12-year-olds are swimming laps, back and forth, back and forth, and becoming great breaststrokers.

I know good, creative, stimulating things can happen anywhere. On Michael Feldman’s “Whadda Ya’ Know?” radio show this week, Feldman interviewed a restaurateur who returned to his hometown to open a restaurant.

“I love Iowa,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to return here.”

Take that, Ms. New York-moved-to-California. Someone who chooses to live in Iowa.

E-mail Jane at

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