I love Staten Island. If you know me that probably doesn't come as any sort of a surprise, but I just wanted to get it out there for anyone else bored enough to be reading this. I can't think of leaving Staten Island. I know, I know. Staten Island's a provincial, conservative town with stupid, classless people.
First, with almost half a million people it's only as provincial as you want it to be. Whatever cultural attractions we lack are simply in another borough, that is, in a different part of the city Staten Island belongs to.
Secondly, it is conservative. People who own homes, worry about earning enough money and sending the kids to school usally don't have the luxury or time to not be fairly conservative. Suits me fine.
Finally, they're really no less classy than any bohemian wannabe in Manahattan or Brooklyn. Look, we live in a pretty tacky society in general these days. For every NASCAR or wrestling fan there's some hipster going to a pompous show at PS 1. We live in a day of cheap spectacle and crazy social antipathies. If you like junk I don't it must be tasteless.
Coming on to Staten Island from any of the bridges or the ferry can still take my breath away. Masonry towers and old wooden houses brek through a seemingly endless green cover of sycamores, oaks and maples. The same vantage point shows the Island as a black space floating in front of me bound together by the yellow-orange street lights and rushing bands of car lights. I'm still moved when I look out over the borough from the crest of one of our bridges and I get just a bit excited when I can pick out a house I know between the leaves and branches that seem to be ready to smother it.
I like its houses and I like its people, even the ones I can't stand on a day to day basis. That's probably because I know I'm a bit of a jerk and I only feel superior because they don't like what I like or act just like me. I mean there's just no rational foundation for me feeling I'm any better than anybody I meet on the street and when I stop looking down my nose long enough I remember that and I can tell myself to shut the heck up.
I'm not foolish enough to think I'm anything but a product of this borough and I know I'm not "better" than the vast majority of them. Just because I think I'm smarter than so many of my fellow Staten Islanders doesn't make it even occasionally true. Everyone likes to think they're smarter or cooler than everyone around them (and everyone knows how cool I am).
These are the people I've known all my life and will probably know till the day I die. They have the same concerns for how the Island evolves and grows in the future that I do. If we don't agree on precisely how things turn out we at least all know what's important to think about.
If I was to go anywhere else I'd feel unmoored and set loose in a very discomfomrting way. It happened during my years in Albany (admittedly a small, anti-cosmopolitan outpost in New York's northlands) and I suspect it would happen wherever I moved to.
I love the tree covered hills and the evolving prairies growing on the remnants of the Fresh Kills Landfill. I love our French Provincial Borough Hall and the abandoned derelict Seaview TB hospital. I love the handful of ancient colonial homes scattered around the North Shore and old Victorian homes vainly struggling against development in Tottenville.
I'm going to start posting pictures from the Island throughout time. Some I'll snag from books and websites while the others I take with my handy little digital camera. If you have any ideas or comments please feel free to leave them and I'll see what I can do.