The first time I visited Nyack, I felt a little like I was going home. I can understand why Carson McCullers—who loved her Georgia home, even if she took issue with its social policies—would want to live in this little gem outside of New York City. Today, visiting again, it was confirmed for me: Nyack feels like my home region, which is comforting. Let me tell you why. (I’m about to embark on a list of stereotypes here—of both the South and NYC—the type that I usually question).
People are friendlier up there. I chatted with a shop owner; I petted a frisky dog; I enjoyed a homemade donut on a quiet street. The pace is slower. There was no rush to jump on the subway or push through a crowd; in fact, the bus was late, and the streets were uncrowded (although we did have to run to catch the train back to the city). It’s quieter. While I noticed the occasional booming car stereo, that was just it: it was so quiet that I noticed the music. The landscape is like home. That is, my childhood home of Greenville, SC, in the piedmont on a tiny river. While, in Nyack, the hills are more mountains and the tiny river is the Hudson, I was still reminded of Greenville and the surrounding western North Carolina mountains. True, the cityscape of Manhattan is beautiful in its way, but it was refreshing to look out and see green and blue.
Basically, what I’ve done here is undermine some of my previous posts. I’m arguing that the South is friendly, slow, quiet, and green, while New York City is disaffected, fast-paced, noisy, and concrete. But Nyack stands out as special to me—maybe because Carson chose to spend most of her life there—but also because it lets me see that “the North” and New York City cannot be collapsed; the North is as diverse as any other region—as NYC itself. Spending time in Nyack also made me realize that I uphold some of the stereotypes about my home region as positive and as true.
Then this street sign reminded me that not all of the South has always been “friendly, slow, quiet, and green.” We have a violent and uncomfortable legacy to discuss and to make sense of, and we must continue to address our regional history and its consequences as much as possible. But, maybe in that moment especially, standing on a street corner in Nyack, NY, I was suddenly not homesick. Not a bit.