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No L.I.E. New York 2002 - Irin Carmon

Irin Carmon
Today, I am unashamed. I say it defiantly: LawnGuyLand. I embrace Jewish American Princess dismissals, assumptions of sheltered gaucheness, appallingly weak accent approximations. I make spiritual alliances with Amy Fisher, Mariah Carey, Dee Snider, West Egg, and John Tesh. And then I get on the LIRR and go home.

No more sophistication by generalization for me. Away from home, I used to get away with a comfortably vague "New York" when asked. Then I shipped off to a place out of state where expat New Yorkers outnumber nearly everyone else, and even the Idahoans know what they're talking about when they demand, "What part?"

I'm at peace with it now. You don't know what you're missing, so-called true New Yorker, you for whom changing at Jamaica and crossing the border into suburbia is scarier than getting a driver's license. But I can teach you the wisdom of the island right here in the metropolis; reverse commuters need not actually set foot on our shores to sample Strong Island's energy.

Manhattan Mall (100 West 33rd Street, 465-0500) is a poor man's Roosevelt Field—where are the acres of parking lots? Where are the beeper-grafted guy gaggles with their close-cropped gel slicks, the girls swathed in Prada sweatpants and XOXO low-rise bleached jeans? Still, you can console yourself with the authentic faux alabaster flooring, "silver" banisters, and plaster lions cheerfully roaring from lavender moldings. And you can pick up hoochie clothing for the high school dance at reliable standbys like Wet Seal (216-0622).

For the more bucolic side of suburbia, Manhattan's best Long Island backyard is the Great Lawn (Central Park at 81st Street, 360-3456), which boasts Little League baseball, youth soccer, and, in the summer, acre after acre of pasty flesh yearning for a burning. In Great Neck, a plot of land this size (if it existed) would run you about $125 million. Here, you can have it for free, minus lawn mower whir. If you prefer to bake fake (good Long Island girls supplement nature, and possess their own eye protection), Manhattan's best tanning salon is Oasis Sun Studio (2152 Broadway, 712-2200). "Not just another mirage," this sanctuary for the bronze-dependent has shiatsu loungers, refreshments and a multichannel digital sound system.

Now get in your white Escalade, and make sure you roll down the windows. How else can you lavish your built-in DVD player—complete with Eve's and Alicia Keys's "Gangsta Lovin' "—on passersby? Some good old-fashioned Long Island traffic shouldn't be hard to find as you cruise to the stupendous Loews Cineplex Lincoln Center (1998 Broadway, 336-5000). Bonus: It's two doors away from the Gap (1988 Broadway, 721-5304), so you can stock up on staples—khakis, denim jackets, and white button-down shirts.

The city does have one—just one—advantage over the island. Word has it that of the 131 Starbucks outlets in Manhattan, 68 are within two blocks of another. So while you'll still need your car, it at least allows for easy access between these whipping boys of would-be counterculturalists. Starbucks is the ersatz neighborhood joint that brings the quasi-urban to suburbia—so in the urbs, it's double the fun, with Sarah McLachlan building a mystery amid the blue plush couches, neutral earth-tone wallpaper, and artsy sienna prints of coffee cups.

Long Island nightlife offers the usual suburban haunts: 7-Eleven lots, diners, poseur-ridden coffeehouses, nostalgic pseudo-goth clubs where you hook up with guys with pierced nipples and cat-eye contact lenses who work at Sunglass Hut and still live with their parents. The über-hipster demographic is all wrong at Bowlmor (110 University Place, 255-8188), the best Long Island-style bowling alley in Manhattan, but you can still pretend you're at an 11-year-old's birthday party or a geriatric shindig at San Dee Lanes. Finish off your evening at the Skylight Diner (402 West 34th Street, 244-0395). It's even next door to a VoiceStream Wireless, so you can upgrade to the latest model before gluing your ass to the marbled vinyl and picking at your mozzarella sticks.

There, now—that wasn't so bad, was it? No, I know you're reeling. But it's OK. Go back to your real city, and down a Long Island iced tea for me at your highfalutin lounge bar. I'll go to the best place to see all of my island friends: Penn Station.

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