Dick Bradie and Joe Argenzio consider themselves Virginians. Bradie has been an Old Dominion resident for 41 years and brags about the Civil War trenches visible down the block. Argenzio, his 78-year-old neighbor, was Virginia's representative at the opening of the National World War II Memorial.
But hearing the New York City transplants discuss their exodus to Orange County is like listening to a Frank Sinatra tune wafting out of Bradie's wood bungalow and into the thick central Virginia woods.
"I nevah dremdt I'd leave New Yawk. Nevah, nevah, nevah," said Argenzio, a Brooklyn native whose car is marked with a "Virginia Combat Wounded" license plate framed by "GIANTS GIANTS GIANTS."
Life in the Washington area can seem like a gush of newcomers, all blending into government ID-wearing, subdivision-living citizens of "The Capital Region."
Yet within this regional identity are many sub-identities. By that, readers might automatically think Salvadoran or Korean. But what could seem more incongruous than a New Yorker in central Virginia?
"Down here, you go to a restaurant and they ask, 'What are you having for your starch?' " Argenzio noted.
"And the pizza -- it tastes good, but it's not pizza," said Bradie, 68.
It is the drive to bond over such observations that fuels the New Yorkers Club, an 18-year-old group of expatriates who live at Lake of the Woods, a gated community about 70 miles from Washington.
Although the community is just south of Fredericksburg, it is in a region far enough from Washington to be populated primarily by Virginia-born Virginians. So it is to discuss their particular experience that about 130 members of the New Yorkers Club plan to meet today -- no coincidence on the date, Sept. 11 -- to eat hot dogs, listen to songs including "Give My Regards to Broadway" and reminisce.
"We'll leave a lot of time to eat, since New Yorkers like to eat," said Bradie, who won't reveal what kind of hot dogs he bought because he was lobbied so hard by various camps: Sabrett, Hebrew National, Nathan's.
But living in Virginia wasn't always a cookout under sunny skies.
"The first year I was here, I hated it," said Argenzio, who was a fire commissioner in Nassau County on Long Island before retiring to Lake of the Woods 12 years ago.
He was familiar with the Washington area, as two of his children lived there, and he had worked for the Defense Department coordinating the movement of troops and helicopters.
"Virginia was another world. I couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand me," said Argenzio, who will serve as master of ceremonies today, walking around with a microphone and asking people where they are from and how they wound up on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line.
After he and his wife headed south, they soon became accustomed to the fresh air, lower taxes and a more genteel attitude. "Now I'd never go back. I feel like a stranger there," he said.
Bradie and his wife, Kathleen, nodded. Bradie was working in Manhattan's theater district in 1964 as an imagery analyst for an Army contractor when his family was transferred to Alexandria.
Eventually, the Bradies moved to Prince William County and then six years ago retired to Lake of the Woods, a place they heard about "when my sister-in-law drove through here on her way to a bar mitzvah," he said.
Bradie, who says he would never call himself an ex-New Yorker, said he cried on a recent trip to the Queens neighborhood where he grew up, seeing how it had become run-down. The New York he remembers is long gone.
"I can remember going to Brooklyn, we'd drive from Long Island, and Brooklyn was dairy farms. Now you can't see the sky," he said. "We miss the old days, and you can't go back. But you can talk about the way it used to be."