Our town: The spirit of Nassau County

"Figure skater Ilana Sherman of Great Neck is a good example of "The Spirit of Nassau County."

Nassau County is the place where Charles Lindberg flew The Spirit of St. Louis on his trip from Roosevelt Field to Paris. It was the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight and his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, can still be seen at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
There are in fact many reasons Nassau County can feel pride.

It’s produced many stars including Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Guttenberg and the Baldwin brothers from Massapequa, Howard Stern from Roosevelt, Billy Crystal from Long Beach, Natalie Portman from Syosset, Susan Lucci from Garden City, Steve Buscemi from Valley Stream and Brian Dennehy from Mineola.
A good friend of mine recently went to see Bernadette Peters at the Tilles Center and I remarked to him “Gee Kevin, Bernadette Peters was from Ozone Park and my Uncle Gabe knew her. It seems to me that Nassau County and its surrounds has produced lots of stars. I wonder why.”

He is quick thinking and responded “Probably the diversity of Nassau County produces competitiveness, which in turn gives us a winning spirit.”
Good answer. The Irish writer D.H. Lawrence said each place has a unique spirit that influences the people that live there. He traveled through America and said America has a restless spirit best revealed in two great American novels, ”The Scarlett Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville.

Lawrence felt that most Americans are like the repressed sexual puritans of “The Scarlett Letter” and also have a restless and deadly aggression like Captain Ahab in “Moby Dick.”
Fair enough but that was 100 years ago. What would D.H. Lawrence say about Nassau County in the year 2019? Let’s take a guess.
My friend said Nassau County folks are creative and driven because of our diversity and our overcrowding. True there are 1.4 million people here and we have a good mix of whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos but maybe our driven quality comes from being second class citizens compared to New York City, that land of princes and princesses.

When I was younger and trying to pick up girls in Manhattan I quickly learned that if I said “Oh yea, I live in Massapequa Park” it was like saying I had bad breath and body odor. Goodbye sweetie.
There was a great psychologist by the name of Alfred Adler who developed the theory of overcompensation which simply means that shame and neglect in childhood will often create ambition and drive. Maybe Nassau Countians are all overcompensating to undo the shame of not living in magic land of Manhattan.
Nassau County’s diversity, overpopulation and an inferiority complex leads to cross-fertilization which may have produced a whole bunch of superstars. Nassau County is a boiling cauldron of talent, drive and ambition.

Immediate proof of the “Spirit of Nassau County” was seen this past weekend at The Village Green in Great Neck.

The town has set up an ice rink and put on the Lights and Ice Show featuring among others Ilana Sherman who competed in the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in 2016 and 2017.

Ilana is an 18-year-old Great Neck resident and was being awarded a banner for her achievements in figure skating. The banner will hang at the Parkwood Sports Complex in the Great Neck right alongside that of Sarah Hughes.

Ilana has spent much of her teen years traveling the world and training either in California or Colorado but she is basically a Nassau County girl, all blond and blue-eyed on the outside but strong-willed and disciplined on the inside.

Her performance was filled with power, grace and beauty and you can see who spectators fall in love with their hometown stars.
Nassau County has many examples of creative genius and beauty. We have the award-winning Endo building in Garden City designed by Paul Rudolph. We have the unparalleled beauty of golf courses like Glen Oak Club in Old Westbury. And let us not forget the miracle that is the Miracle Mile in Manhasset for those who love to shop until they drop.
We who live and were raised in Nassau County have much to be thankful for and proud of. The suburbs have always been given a bad rap but if it’s so bad why does everyone want to move here?

The ordinary among us from Nassau County have grown up to be lawyers or doctors or accountants. But then there are the creative ones who become comedians or musicians or actors or athletes.

The Spirit of Nassau County means you become hardworking, earnest, liberal, steadfast and ambitious.
Some say we in Nassau County have been spoiled and sheltered, growing up in gated communities and at elitist country clubs.

But the safety, security and indulgence of the suburban life produce some remarkable things for the world to enjoy. Who on earth does not love Natalie Portman or Steve Buscemi or Jerry Seinfeld?

As you enjoy the gorgeous Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” during this holiday season remember that she was raised in Huntington which is awfully close to Nassau County.
It is a tough thing to locate the spirit of a place. Kind of like seeking magic in a deep forest. You know it’s there but it’s tough to put your finger on it.

Nassau County has a spirit of power and creative energy and all you have to do is pause, look around and breath it in. Congratulations to all these homegrown superstars.

About the author

Dr Tom Ferraro

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