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Culture Shock

Early each summer, my arrival on Cape Cod is like slipping gingerly into a warm bath. Black pants replaced with shorts covered in whales; an oversized leather bag replaced with a tiny canvas one with a red lobster on the front, and the “Don’t Mess With Me” mask New Yorkers wear to navigate crowds, replaced with an easy smile. Yesiree, as soon as I’m over the Sagamore Bridge and I inhale that salty air, every ounce of stress falls away.


My return to New York City, on the other hand, is a much different story.

When I got back on Saturday it felt like I’d been shoved into an ice-cold shower. I was no sooner out of my car when I found myself arguing with the parking garage attendant over the monthly amount that had somehow increased from the quote I was given in June. With no choice, I left the car, having paid the higher price (not just with a credit card, but my sanity), and carried my oversized tote bag, three smaller bags and a backpack the long two blocks home.

Dropping off my stuff, quickly skimming through the mail, and doing a once over to make sure my apartment was in working condition, I was out again, eager to tackle the list of errands I’d made on the drive home. Walking the familiar blocks, adjusting to the stench of the city streets, I felt like I’d awoken from a nap, that feeling of being rested, but slightly out of it as if the last six weeks had been a dream.

With one confrontation already under my belt, I wasn’t in the mood for more. But I had no choice. I had to go to Fairway. Having spent the last six weeks frequenting supermarkets with aisles you could drive a Hummer through, I felt as if I was shrinking into myself to fit through these jam-packed narrow ones. People huffed at me as I passed. I was in a hurry to finish my shopping and get back to the safety of my apartment.

“Felice!” I heard as I wormed my way out of the store, arms laden with bags. “Wait up!” I turned to see the smiling face of a friend from the neighborhood. “When did you get back? What are you doing tonight? I’m having a party. You have to come.”

A few hours later, seated on my friend’s terrace, cold drink in hand, surrounded by laughing friends and tall buildings, and watching the sunset melt into the Hudson River, I exhaled. While Cape Cod will always be my real home, it’s moments like this I’m happy to call The Big Apple my “other” home.

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