Sunday, November 20, 2011

You're from where? You've only lived here how long?

Comparatively speaking, I have lived here for about nanosecond. That would make me a resident of Alameda (and California). I have the driver’s license to prove it. I can accept my current status as resident but what I can't accept is the idea that I might never be considered a local in Alameda. Now I appreciate not being considered a native: I wasn’t born here and don't have the shared history of someone who was. I don't consider myself a native Detroiter either despite being born there because I don't have the shared history. Trust me, liking Better Made potato chips, the Red Wings and Motown music does not a native make. I was just raised right.

I think this is one of the challenges with being part of a military family: you end up defining home differently and it doesn't usually conform to what most people believe or think about localness.

I should be able to earn localness. I am not a native New Orleanian but I would consider myself a local (and was told by many natives that I was). One of my friends (who is a native New Orleanian) said that I was local because I could spell Tchoupitoulas without looking. Close your eyes and try it. I appreciate that this is what made me local in her eyes. There’s something about New Orleans that I identify with and will always consider it my home no matter where else I live. Ultimately, that might be the problem with my identity in California; I refuse to lose my New Orleanian-ness.

I’d like to be a local here. I genuinely like Alameda and the East Bay (much more than I ever liked the DC area but not quite as much as New Orleans). The people seem cool and the area has a creative vibe that I appreciate and want to be part of. I’m just not really sure how to go about it. How does one become a local especially when you don’t know that many people? What really defines localness?

People here seem to confuse local and native much more than anywhere else I’ve lived. I had a conversation with someone who is a native and he told me I would never be local even if I married an Alameda native, had children, raised my children here and lived here the rest of my life. My children might be considered local (although technically they'd be natives) but he wasn’t so sure. I asked him why and he just said that's how it works in California (he said California not Alameda).

Frankly, this is total crap. I propose that there should be a test or a checklist that I can go through to move from resident to local. Remember I'm willing to earn it. I shop locally, volunteer my time locally and tell everyone how great it is to live here. I didn't expect localness overnight but really? It just seems so complicated.

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