Go West, Young Man

I miss the west. Since being compelled to move east, I have felt trapped here on the east coast. I miss the open spaces of the western environs. This may sound trite but it is true. I miss the wide open feel of the place. I yearn for the vast vistas of the west. Mostly, I long for the blue expanse of the Pacific. The sea on the west coast holds a particular allure, born perhaps in experiences of my youth. It represents freedom and the capacity to yield to caprice.

The east, for its part, holds none of these. The east constrains me. I feel ensnared by the encroaching trees. My memories of my youth in New England consist mainly of the stifling green of encircling forests and trees. The east lacks vista; it seems somehow to smother me in a verdant embrace. There is a sense of impingement in the impenetrable wood. It gives me a feeling of intense loneliness.

Admittedly, I am exceedingly homesick. Despite being born and raised in Boston, after 25 years in San Francisco, I now consider it home. I understand this may sound like a paean to the west; to me, the west is a song, a melody that stirs my soul, lifts my heart to an exalted plane. The east will never be able to induce such a reverence; I will never hold it in the same esteem. There is an antiquated aspect to the cities as compared to those on the left coast.

Unfortunately, this has the tone of an interminable whine. This is not my intent. Certainly, the east has its good points. There is exceptional theater here, something that offers no comparison on the west coast. To some extent, the west coast may seem somewhat provincial on that account. This may be overstating, as parochialism is a common criticism leveled at the west coast. Over time, the theater scene in San Francisco has been able to credibly hold its own; the truly compelling theater scene still resides in the vicinity of Broadway.

Beyond the theater, there are also the music, sartorial, publishing and a host of other fields in which New York still maintains predominance. Doubtless, arguments can be made either way on each of these points. The objective here is not to encourage undue animus but rather to highlight some of the intrinsic differences between the two locales. Both have good qualities; I merely prefer one over the other. In the end, it all comes down to a question of choice, a simple matter of predilection.

In the west, there is a broad expanse of sky, a blueness that is lacking here despite the penchant for such that is put forth here in the south; one need only ponder the cerulean firmament out west to relinquish that notion. Moreover, there is an openness that is lacking in the east; this applies to attitudes as well as to terrain. The proclivity for the new may be decried by some but it lends a welcome respite for one long accustomed to a local penchant for the tried and true (read: tired and hackneyed).

Which brings about another differentiation: new versus old. The east has a monopoly on the old, the west on the innovative. The east has a veritable lock on historical designations; while the west holds virtually all title on the new. This can provide some near laughable constructions, e.g., in an attempt to forestall demolition, buildings in the west are routinely afforded historical status, despite the fact that they are a mere 25 years old. This of course would bring an ironic smile to the lips of homeowners in the east that are denied historical status eligibility because their construction date was in the same year as our aforesaid western historical preservation.

Suffice to say, this is a dichotomous dispute that could go on evermore without resolution. Again, it is merely an issue of partiality, of preference, of style. For me, it is about the setting of the sun or the sense of familiarity or even the smile on a friendly face. All of which, of course, could be found whether east or west.

© Stephen Alexander 2008

Go West, Young Man

stephen hewitt

Lanexa, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

An examination of east v west

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