Living on Long Island is many things to many people in many neighborhoods.
Out east along the North Fork, we slap NOFO stickers on our car bumpers, relishing the linguistic closeness our area's abbreviation shares with a certain short-form expletive, often uttered by locals at the sight of vehicles bearing Jersey tags.
We cherish our undeveloped and agricultural environs. We enjoy the seasonal harvests, from berries to veggies to the fruit of the grape. We slurp local pinot and chardonnay, despite the relative expense of many of those rather small vintages. And while there ain’t nothing wrong with potato fields--especially if your ancestors were Bavarian peasants like some of mine--vineyards are more fun, even a Bavarian-American with a penchant for hops will admit that.
We flourish in our small town atmosphere. We talk to complete strangers in stores, on the street and at the piers. Mass transit is scarce. The LIRR doesn’t run many trains out our way. There is one county bus route that connects easternmost Orient Point to Riverhead at the western end of the twin forks. Service comes by about once an hour. But bus drivers stop anywhere along the road if a would-be rider flags them down and those same drivers, aware of the special East End exigencies, will let you off as close as possible to your destination. Speaking of roads, we basically have two east-west arteries to link us with Riverhead and points further west. While those routes have official county numbers, we know them simply as the main road and the north road.
Deer, egret and osprey sightings are commonplace. And when it comes to area animal husbandry, horses, cows, goats and chickens co-exist with alpacas, bison and yaks.
Any “up-island” commute aside, the pace of life out east on the North Fork is slower and old fashioned. Cars and houses are often left unlocked. Over summer vacation, kids form “gangs” only to enjoy popular outdoor activities like boating, swimming, and jumping off pilings and bridges into the clean waters of Southold Bay, Peconic Bay, or Greenport Harbor.
Angling in the bays, the Sound, and the Atlantic yields a variety of fish that are fun to land and tasty to eat. The abundance of shellfish and the ease with which it may be harvested makes linguini with clam sauce a cheap and easily prepared fresh feast.
We North Fork residents enjoy our rural refuge, especially in the off-season when the “Cidiots” are back in their urban centers. Of course, the summertime tourist traffic that clogs our two-lane roads resurges briefly as those nature-starved suburbanites return to pick pumpkins and purchase dried cornstalks. Later, many come back once more to select a tannenbaum from the Christmas tree farms.
Our fork may not yet be home to as many artsy types as the Hamptons, but there are plenty of rich folks with big boats. Still, most people are struggling like the rest of Long Island. If you live here you know it’s a hard dollar.
We have our share of solid citizens who are high school educated and hardworking, two fine attributes which alone, however, can not guarantee virtue. But most folks are nice enough and good natured. However, if you look or act too different than what they’re accustomed to, well, many’s the NOFO native with a narrow comfort zone.
Mostly we enjoy living amid the natural beauty. It relaxes us and helps put the proverbial rat race in its proper perspective. And for that, we often thank the Almighty.