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Taking A New Yorker Out Of New York

 March 4, 2020 at 5:26 AM PST

Speaker 1 (00:00): ANDREW BRACKEN (00:04): Whenever I talk to someone to move to San Diego, the perfect weather is often the first thing they mentioned. It's not the case for Aaron Bianco. Aaron Bianco (00:13): It's so strange to me because so many people move to a San Diego because of, you know, it's 75 all the time and sunny like I want to kill myself. Then it's 75 and sending every single day like, can I just get a drop of rain? Welcome to my first day. My name is Andrew Bracken. My first day tell the stories of those who've come to San Diego from elsewhere and now call it home. Being a native new Yorker carries a certain weight to it. It defines you in a lot of ways. Your attitude, your pace, your lifestyle. For Antonio, Aaron Bianco, growing up in an Italian American household in the Bronx, very much defined him, including his Catholic upbringing, discovering his sexuality, complicated things a bit along the way, but for new Yorker, moving to bright and relaxe. San Diego can take some getting used to and the pull of New York may never truly fade. We'll be right back. Here's Aaron Bianco with his story of my first day. My growing up in New York was good. I had great family life. We lived in a section of the Bronx that was very Italian. My family's very culturally Catholic is what I always said. They sent us to Catholic school, but I don't know that I ever saw my dad go to church other than major holidays or funerals or weddings. And we weren't a pray at kind of home family. But you know, being typical Italian there were, but we in New York called Mary on the half shell in the front yard, people laugh about it. It's a statue of Mary and there's this thing behind her that looks like a shell. It looks like a shrine. So in New York we call it Mary on the half shell. So we had one of those in our, like it was just, there was something about being a new Yorker and Italian that I loved. But there was also, you know, it was not the greatest time in New York city. And so I was aware that there were areas that were horrible and I could not go to them. Aaron Bianco (02:39): Like my family made that very clear. And I remember my brothers had gone to the Catholic high school that was very close to us. It was actually on the campus of Fordham university. And I decided I wanted to go to the Catholic high school in Manhattan. And my parents were very worried because I was going to have to take the every single day for that 45 minute ride or whatever it was. Um, and so I remember, you know, being told, you know, sit in a certain car and don't look at anyone, you know, if someone gets on that is acting, get off and get on the next. So I, I remember all of that. But I also remember the excitement of being a kid in Manhattan when school would let out. And I never just got on that subway and got home. Aaron Bianco (03:34): So it was this eye opening kind of thing for me to be in the city and to kind of be on my own, if that makes sense. ANDREW BRACKEN (03:57): Aaron decided to go away for college, far away to USC in Los Angeles. Aaron Bianco (04:02): I truthfully did it because I wasn't open to my parents about being gay. And so I needed to get as far away as I could to be me. That's what it was. That's what it was in my head. Um, because I just, I knew if I stayed in New York, I was going to be disasters. When I went home for Christmas break, I sat at the edge of my mom's bed. She was in bed and I said to her, I have something to tell you. And I started to cry and she sat up in the bed and said to me, what? You're gay. ANDREW BRACKEN (04:45): Was she joking? Aaron Bianco (04:46): No, she was serious. And it actually really ticked me off. And I was like, why would you think that? Um, but she said, I've known since you were probably five or six years old, but it was your, you had to be the one to say it. That was for you to do. And so I was never going to say it until you told me. I think when my mom said it, that was also me thinking, do my brothers know? Does everyone I talk to just look at me and think, Oh, this guy's just lying about everything. We know he's gay. I think that's what it was. Um, but then there was also this huge relief that she had finally, like it had come out to be very honest. Like there was no going back. Now mom knew, ANDREW BRACKEN (05:37): mom knew, but telling dad proved much more difficult. So much so that he asked his mom to tell him it did not go well. Aaron Bianco (05:51): I'll never forget. We got in his car, we were going to go to a diner. This was still break. And he said to me, I want you to know, um, that Aaron Bianco (06:03): I love you, but I will never accept that part of you. Aaron Bianco (06:09): And I remember we stopped at a stop light and I gave him a few choice words and told him, there's a lot of things about you that I'd rather not accept that I've had to. So Aaron Bianco (06:22): until you do, I have nothing to say to you. When I got out of his car, Aaron Bianco (06:31): I ended up flying back to California and about three months later, probably about March, um, my mom called me and said, your dad's on a flight out to California to see you. I said, I don't want to see him. So he's wasting his time. And he came. I did see him and he had had a change. And you know, I now, when I look back at it, I get it. My parents were much older. My closest brother is 16 years older than me. My dad was an older Italian guy, very traditional, and it was just very hard for him. ANDREW BRACKEN (07:17): After studying theology in college, Aaron continued his schooling and debated whether to become a priest. Eventually he settled into a relationship with another native new Yorker who would later become his husband. They settled into life together in their native city. Aaron Bianco (07:33): Our life. Personal life was great in New York. We owned a condo right at the beach in New York city. Another thing people don't know. There's beaches in New York city. Um, we had a great life. There were outside family members who were not very accepting and made it very, very difficult for my husband. And he kind of decided we need to get out of New York cause I can't handle this any longer. ANDREW BRACKEN (08:05): When we come back, a couple of new Yorkers, head West Aaron Bianco (08:08): tears ran down his face at how horrible this was and we were now stuck in San Diego ANDREW BRACKEN (08:19): Thinking it was time to get away from New York, at least for awhile. Aaron's husband Joe, then a police officer in New York ended up getting a job offer in San Diego and they decided to make the move. So they packed up their condo in Queens, hopped in an RV with their cats and headed West. It didn't take long after they arrived to notice the difference. Aaron Bianco (08:40): I'll never forget one of the first days we went, I think it was maybe the next morning and we, Joe and I woke up and we had a tradition on Fridays that I would go and get a, we would get bagels and I would get in New York, you just know it as a bacon, egg and cheese, right? It's simple, it's not a big deal. And I looked up work, could I get a bagel? And so I went there and Joe says, well, I don't want bacon, egg and cheese. I want sausage, egg and cheese. I said, okay. So I get there and I see they don't have on the menu, there's no bacon, egg and cheese, but it says there's Turkey sausage, egg and cheese. I'm thinking, Oh, that is so strange. So I asked for the Bay and there's like, Oh, sorry, we don't have that. So I get Joe, the Turkey egg and cheese. I get a bagel and I head back and I will never forget. I handed it to Joe and he took a bite of it and I, he's going, he will deny this. Tears ran down his face at how horrible this was and we were now stuck in San Diego. Aaron Bianco (09:55): It's like the simple things in life that we were just so used to. It was just so different. ANDREW BRACKEN (10:12): The differences didn't end with food. Just a few days after arriving, Aaron went to his first Catholic church service in San Diego that day. The priest did a homily encouraging congregants to vote yes on prop eight a California state proposition that sought to ban same sex marriage. Aaron Bianco (10:27): Me being the new Yorker I am, I could not keep quiet, so I started to shout out at him from the back of the church that he was wrong and how ignorant he was and I was forcibly removed by two big Italian men from the back of the church and that's how I started off my kind of career here in San Diego. So there was this very quick on, Oh, am I going to find a job in San Diego? Like are they going to hire a gay guy who may have the theology degrees is partnered, I guess this is going to even happen. ANDREW BRACKEN (11:13): Aaron did find work in his field leading to teaching at the university of San Diego and helping run a local parish settling into a new life in San Diego though proved challenging. Aaron Bianco (11:24): Those first few days of being in San Diego. I remember there were points because with the NYP D he had taken a leave that would go six months and there were quite a few times, especially in that first month and a half that we seriously sat down and said to ourselves, we still have our [inaudible]. No, in Queens, like somehow we'll get runner out. You go back to the NYP D because I don't know if we can make it without bagels and boars head. Aaron Bianco (12:22): San Diego is very slow. Every thing is slow and so that was another shocker. Aaron Bianco (12:37): We were somewhere the other day or so, maybe a month or so ago with some other people where, where are we? I don't even remember where it was, but I remember the other couple we were with, they were like, is there a reason we're running? And Joe and I, we were not running. We were getting to where we had to and they would literally were like, are we late? Why are we running something that still, and I know it's going to be the death of me, so I need to control myself. If you are sitting at a red light in San Diego and the light turns green and the car in front of you does not move, San Diego can sit there because they don't want to be rude and don't do anything. Me, the new Yorker is sitting behind them with my hand on my horn screaming out my window. That does not, people not have anywhere to get to. Aaron Bianco (13:36): So that still to this day is very hard on me trying to say to myself, you're not in New York. Like this is how they are here and you've got to try to adapt to them. You know, there were other things though that I don't think we thought of that you know, fairly quickly. You know, we enjoyed, you know, we have kind of fallen in love with Cornetto. We just love it. We love to be down there. We love the beaches there. We left us to walk around. So I, those were pleasant surprises with stuff that we had really, I mean that was never on our radar. ANDREW BRACKEN (14:21): In his job at the local parish, Aaron became the target of harassment and threats due to his being gay, despite feeling supported by local church leaders as well as the parish community at large. The harassment grew too much to bear and Aaron resigned. Aaron Bianco (14:36): It's been a, it's been a roller coaster, but it's also been great. And you know, I always love to say that, you know, they came after me basically saying, you know, that I was this heretic and how liberal I was and that should not be, you know, in Catholic parishes or anything. And the funny thing is none of these people ever met me. And if they ever actually sat down and have had a conversation with me, other than me being gay, I'm probably a lot like them. But because they couldn't, they never wanted that conversation. They really never got to know what I actually feel about the church and what I actually teach. ANDREW BRACKEN (15:19): despite all the experiences he's had and his adopted home through it all. New York never really seems far from Aaron's mind. Aaron Bianco (15:26): I love our physical home here where we live. Like I love my house. I love being in my house. Again. I love these friends that have become family. I love teaching at USD. I love my students, but with all of that said, if tomorrow I was given the opportunity to go back home, I would go in a second. There is a part of me even talking about it to you Aaron Bianco (15:59): that I can feel it in the pit of my stomach, how much I miss home. ANDREW BRACKEN (16:14): thanks for listening. My first day is produced by me, Andrew Bracken, along with help from Melissa Diaz and us Susanna Garcia, music by Jason beacon along with Graham Barton and lull atone theme music by Chris Curtis, our emails, my first day we're also on Instagram at my first day. Stories for KPBS. Emily, Jen Kowalski's, technical director, Kinsey Moreland, his podcast coordinator, Lisa chain Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is director of programming. This program is made possible in part by the KPBS explore local content fund. Thank you for listening. See you next time.

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A native New Yorker, Aaron Bianco moves to sunny San Diego for his husband’s work. He soon learns that the little things can mean a lot, while missing good bagels and rain along the way. Later, his deep faith is put to the test. About the show: My First Day is a KPBS Explore series that explores these important days through people who came to San Diego from elsewhere, and now call it home. About the producer: Andrew Bracken is a documentary mediamaker working with audio, video, and interactive media. He is the creator, producer, and host of the KPBS podcast My First Day. Follow the show: Instagram: Contact: Photo taken by Joe Bianco, December 2018 at the couple's home in San Diego, Calif.