Reader Friday: Your Home Town

I do love America. And L.A. is a very short commute to America. It’s like half an hour on the plane. — Craig Ferguson

How would you describe your home town? Have you ever written about it?

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21 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Your Home Town

  1. My beloved home currently and for much of the year can be described as “frozen”. Perhaps the extremes we face enhance appreciation of my state’s wondrous natural beauty. Water is the magic ingredient (particularly the approximately seven months when it is not ice) – more than anything the unmatched number of lakes, rivers and streams make Minnesota unique.
    A scene from near the opening of book one of my series…Drake, an emergency MD is on a rescue helicopter flight to a scene that involves murder and more:

    “…The elevator doors slid open to the jet-fuel smell and hurricane roar
    of the high-performance rescue helicopter. The helipad shuddered with the twin engines’ power and was awash in their driving heat. Drake held his stethoscope secure from the gale-force rotor wash as he scuttled under the blades and across the vibrating deck to the open copilot door.
    He nodded to the pilot as he climbed aboard. Drake strapped in and affixed his headphones as the pilot initiated the helicopter’s power-takeoff dive.
    His stomach plunged and then rebounded as the craft dove, then accelerated forward and up. It felt like a runaway carnival ride.
    Hennepin-North Medical Center sat on the edge of the Minneapolis downtown district’s collection of older stone giants and newer glass and steel towers. The low afternoon sun fell flush on the copter as they flew out from the buildings’ shadows and into the open corridor over the Mississippi River. The Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolis sprawled to the horizon in all directions, the brawny river separating the sister cities. The copter banked over the surging water of St. Anthony’s Falls.
    As they gained altitude, the pilot swung the stick to the west and into the sun. A chain of large lakes shimmered into view amidst the greenery- rich cityscape. Four years in Minnesota, and Drake still gaped at the beauty.
    The Air Care dispatch operator’s report crackled through Drake’s headphones. “Adult female. Suspected near-drowning. CPR ongoing. Flight time, eight minutes.”
    They raced over highways, woods, marshland, and increasingly impressive neighborhoods. The glittering expanse of massive Lake Minnetonka’s eastern reach came into view. As they neared the exclusive lakeshore, the homes became estates and the yards grounds.
    Drake shifted as they passed over a lakefront retail district to open water. The area seemed familiar and a sense of unease kindled as the copter sped over the waves.
    The pilot turned shoreward and elevated to clear towering lakeside oak trees, bringing into view the rear of a white stone mansion with a garden terrace and a large pool. A manicured lawn ascended from the shoreline, its green velvet gashed by coal-black ruts tracking to a police car and an ambulance, both with doors hanging open and emergency lights flashing…”

    Book #2 is set in Minnesota winter – a season that is at least two months too long.
    Even so it is beautiful.
    Thanks for indulging long comment and my love of MN❤️

  2. I’ve only lived in my “home town” for 8 1/2 years. Although I’ve set books in my “other” home towns of LA, Miami, and Orlando, it’s the rural setting of the Colorado mountains that resonates. Deer instead of people, one traffic light at each end of town, acknowledging people on the “roads” whether they’re walking or driving. Unpredictable weather (which can add tension as well as give some leeway with scene-setting).

  3. Jamestown, NY. Famous for Lucille Ball and infamous for Roger Goodell. The original Chautauqua Institution and the National Comedy Center are there as well. A small city built on rolling hills and surrounded by dairy farms and year round recreation. Snowy and cold in winter, tepid in the summer, crisp in the fall with glorious foliage, and windy all spring. I don’t live there any more, but I miss it the bucolic lifestyle.

    I wrote about the area in one short story several years ago.

  4. My home town is a catch 22 for me. I grew up in a town of 66 people. I think their population has boomed to like a 140 now. 😎 A few stop signs but no traffic lights. We did have a post office–not sure about a bank. Spent a lot of time walking a half mile up the road to the country store to buy penny candy. I LOVED growing up in the country in a small little town. I wish where I lived now had a small population (in my dreams).

    Unfortunately, the one thing about it that prevented me from permanently calling it home is that it was a state with not one single mountain. Ant hills are as big as it gets. Mountains are a requirement for me, like lungs to breathe.

    But I wouldn’t trade growing up small town for anything. I haven’t used it in my fiction yet, but I’ve got a novel idea sitting in the hopper that will draw on those days and places.

  5. My hometown is Bainbridge Island, Washington: “six miles as the crow flies to Seattle; eighty miles as the crow drives” around Puget Sound. I call it One Percent Island, an oppressively wealthy, oppressively white enclave of people who wear avocado-colored sweaters tied around their necks and schedule their weekend activities around “Wait … Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” Every year when it snows, I post a picture of the ground blanketed in it, with the caption: “This morning, whiteness as far as the eye can see. In other words, just another day on Bainbridge Island.” It’s the sort of place where people wish they could get high smoking kale, where the homeowners parrot liberal pieties while complaining about homeless people taking up tables at Starbucks, where bespectacled male maxillofacial surgeons pay to have their Harleys shipped to Sturgis so neither they nor their pristine “Hogs” get scratched; where the women are Lululemoned to within an inch of their Barrecored-bodied lives. Where boredom drives the divorce rate into spikes higher than last year’s property-tax assessment. Where affairs are conducted between a son’s elite-lacrosse-team practice and a daughter’s dance-recital rehearsal. Where Dad is not above calling an old golf buddy to make sure his kid gets into Bates or Bowdoin. Where yoga is the official municipal religion; where the bridge to the mainland is called the service entrance; where Mexicans who aren’t spotted with lawnmowing equipment are often the subject of 911 calls. Bainbridge Island is also full of good people who mean well and have done well but lose their shit upon the sight of horseshit on a favorite forest trail. Where friendly competitions among kid sports moms over team snacks turn into all-day-baking bloodsport. Where traffic roundabouts and two spaces being taken by one Escalade at the local organic grocery store inspire Facebook posts of unbridled fury. Where people complain about the service at restaurants from servers and bussers who can’t afford to live within an hour of the place.Where affordable-housing initiatives are initially applauded and then viciously derided when they’re proposed for your backyard because we all know that schoolteachers and nurses and shipyard workers might bring crime to the neighborhood.

    Nope, never considered writing about it.

  6. Born, raised, and I now own the family homeplace after my mom’s death. Except for my college and graduate school days, I’ve never really left because I took responsibillity for Mom so the siblings could go where they needed to for their mates and jobs. They all finally ended up within sixty miles of me. The family has been in the general area since before the Revolutionary War. They came over from Germany to escape the Methodist persecutions, saw that NC looked like Germany, and few left. So, in other words, the hometown is about family, not about anything else, although the mix of big ciities, culture, and countryside is a nice extra. I have ten acres of woods, birds, and animals around me, but I’m less than ten minutes away from several big cities, NC-style. Three or four hours away from mountains and the beach. Plus, the twice annual influx of over 10,000 people from all over the world who come for the local International Furniture and Home Furnishings markets.

    I changed the name of my town to Moravia for two of my published books and a trilogy that was never published. It’s the EERIE, INDIANA version where lots of paranormal stuff happens. I changed the city’s name because no one who lives here would believe anything truly weird would happen.

  7. I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, a city sometimes described as “a beautiful lady with a dirty face.” But I don’t identify Savannah as my hometown. That distinction belongs to my Uncle Fred’s farm a few miles up the road from Guyton, Georgia, where I spent most weekends of my youth.
    My parents, my brother, and I would share a large house with a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of the children were young, and we were allowed to run wild outside, climbing trees, playing baseball, or watching the trains rattle by on the tracks just outside the fence. There was a tiny country church where the lady who played the piano sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in a voice that brought tears to the eyes of the small congregation. And it wasn’t because her voice was angelic.
    My cousin Joan and I were the only girls among an abundance of boys, so we would occasionally be commanded to sit with the women and shell butter beans until our colanders were full and our thumbs were all mushy. Then we could escape to the more exciting world of pestering the guys and sharing our secrets with each other.
    Our country surroundings boasted no majestic scenery like the American west. No urban sophistication like the big cities. There was certainly nothing that would recommend such a place to a tourist. But I can still feel the warmth of the Georgia earth beneath my bare feet as we ran races on dirt roads. And I recall arms tight around my waist as I sat sandwiched in between my cousin Billy and my cousin Joan, all of us astride Ol’ Dan, the gigantic gelding that yielded to our childhood antics as we rode around the lake. And I remember bouncing up and down like a cork on the ocean as Uncle Fred drove his Cadillac across plowed fields with giggling, bobbling children in the back seat.
    I have long since moved away from my childhood haunts, redefined by choice and chance. But Joan and I still talk on the phone and laugh at our youthful foolishness. And the memory of those days warms my heart. And I am so grateful.

  8. I live in a postcard, Alaska. While my hometown is Fairbanks, and my current home is Anchorage, I have spent a lot of my life rambling the wilderness in between. Here is how I described it in my novel MIDNIGHT SUN.

    ***
    In Alaska, outside of the few small cities and towns, there are no borders, no boundaries, no squares or straight lines. The handful of roads meander like winding estuaries of asphalt and gravel.
    Perpetually ice-capped mountain ranges and gray-green scribbles of river mark the closest thing to boundaries, intertwining and caressing one another blurring the discernible division. The whole of Alaska is one massive place with no end and no limits as far as the eye can see. Time seemed suspended as Hilde stared out the floatplane’s window. Ahead of them, Denali rose like a waking giant. The late-morning sun cast its powerful beams against the blue-and-white surface of the great mass of rock until it glowed as bright as a terrestrial-bound sun.
    Although she knew it was the tallest mountain in North America, Hilde had no idea what that meant in perspective until she was in a plane two miles above the ground, the summit of Denali rose three miles higher yet. Marcus drove the plane straight toward the mountain until there was nothing else visible in the front windscreen.
    “Shouldn’t we pull up or turn away?” she asked.
    “Afraid we’re going to hit it?” Marcus replied with a grin.
    “Well, it is getting awfully close.”
    “It’s still forty miles away, ma’am.” Marcus reassured her. He pointed to the northeast. “We land over there.”
    In the distance, Hilde made out the barely visible shape of a clearing in the dark evergreen forest. It looked like a hole in the surface of the earth.
    “I thought you said we’d land on a lake.”
    “That is a lake.”
    Marcus banked the plane toward the clearing and dropped to just above tree level. Hilde’s stomach tickled like she was on a roller coaster. She closed her eyes and again gripped the armrests. In a replay of the takeoff, the skin on her knuckles stretched tight, whitened until it looked like her bones had come through. When she opened her eyes, she saw that there was indeed a lake below them. It was much smaller than the one they had used for takeoff, and there were no float plane docks or sidewalks, or parking areas—no signs of modern life anywhere around them.
    Marcus dipped the nose to a steep angle toward the water. Hilde’s heart jumped, catching in her throat. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the impact, tried to dispel visions of being smashed to pieces in a wreck of DeHaviland Beaver debris.
    Suddenly the plane leveled and the roar of the engine softened. She sensed that they were still moving, then felt herself laid back like she was being gently forced into a La-Z-Boy recliner. The engine shut off. She opened her eyes and found that somehow Marcus had landed the plane. The plane drifted across the surface of the water. Powered by inertia, it slid toward a narrow beach of smooth round rocks rimmed by massive spruce trees, spires pointed heavenward.
    “Well, this is it,” Marcus said.
    Hilde regarded their surroundings as if unsure they were actually still on the surface of the same planet. Marcus took off his headset and she did the same. The plane drifted to a halt against the rocky shoreline and he climbed out.
    “Told you it would be a nice landing,” Marcus said as he stepped onto the pontoon.
    He jumped toward the rocks with the rope in his hand, the splash of his feet landing in the water like a quotation mark announcing the beginning of a new dialogue. He pulled the plane forward until it stopped, then tied the rope to a tree. Mike and Hilde climbed out and joined him. They piled the gear at the forest’s edge then started setting up camp. Backyard sleepovers as a twelve-year-old Girl Scout seemed like staying in a posh hotel by comparison. Peacefuld quiet enveloped her like a comfortable blanket.
    Until the mosquitos quickly found them.
    Marcus tossed her a bottle of bug dope.
    “Put this on your exposed skin, but not on your lips or eyes. It’s pure DEET. Works like a charm, but not good to eat.”
    “I don’t want to rub poison on my skin,” she said.
    “It won’t hurt you unless you use it every day for months at a time,” Marcus said. “It’s definitely better than getting eaten alive by the mogies. They’re the only evil scar on this otherwise picturesque scene.”
    As she rubbed the clear lotion onto her skin, she was amazed at how the “mogies” immediately fled from her. The silence of the forest gradually became an entity of its own. Wind whispered through the spruce trees and clusters of willow at the edges of the lake. Water rippled as small insects skimmed the surface. A gathering of swallows flitted out from a tangle of willow branches, spinning and turning then dashing back into the trees as if playing a game of tag, their song like laughter on the warm afternoon air. The air had vitality. It was not just some unseen necessity here. It was a being in its own right, clean, fresh, sweet. Her lungs felt as if they were being filled properly for the first time in her life. Hilde breathed deeply and let the undiluted purity of it soak into her bloodstream. She felt the sensation that since infancy, she had been on the verge of drowning, kept alive by artificial means for the past thirty-nine years and only now discovered what oxygen really felt like. She had the fleeting thought that it was original air, an untouched leftover from Creation, air that God had reserved, kept in a secret storehouse, unspoiled, holy.
    Hildegard Farris had found heaven on earth.

  9. I was born and raised in Seattle, and have lived most of my life here. That makes it technically my hometown, although I don’t really feel at home here. Since I’m not a millennial techbro and I drive a car I feel decidedly more and more unwelcome here.

    The place I felt most at home was LA. If the cost of living weren’t so high there I would move back in a heartbeat.

    Never written about Seattle. I’ve had an idea percolating for quite some time, but not a true story. It’s not at the top of my list of projects to develop, either.

    The description of Bainbridge Island was precious.

  10. Late Summer – 4 years ago
    Pacific Avenue, downtown Santa Cruz, California, is a tri-era promenade: pre-earthquake, early post-earthquake, and today. Something to note as you look up and down the stretches of the Pacific Garden Mall. Parts of each era remain and shoulder up, intermingled and interwoven, in a strange dichotomy of style and sensibilities, palpable to six senses, senses that must include feel, not to be confused with touch. Before the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, old family businesses struggled against a fluctuating economy and decay – Leask’s, Ford’s, the stately Cooper House, the Hihn Building – only to disappear into quake rubble and oblivion. From the ruins, the silent overgrown lots have slowly and painfully risen, Phoenix-like, to house modern replicas, saved from demolition, clothed in new paint, giving concrete testament to the power of Mother Nature’s onslaught.
    It looks new, somewhat tidy, with new business owners, full of dreams, bringing new energy, unaware of the strange angles. It’s all here, the very Gen Y storefronts of The Gap, Border’s, Starbucks, Cinema 9 and the upper-storied upper-classed condos to old fringe establishments – Logo’s, The Avenue Bar, Book Shop Santa Cruz – and the eminent elder Santa Cruz statesmen – Del Williams, The Del Mar Theater, The Palomar Hotel, Annieglass.
    The sun has slipped below the roofline of the renovated Cooper House across the way, now home to O’Neill’s, giving the street a bluish cast, and the wind swirls cold, scuttling the dry leaves of late summer. The briny smell of the sea wafts in. You feel it every year as October anniversary of the earthquake nears. The wind is different then.
    From my vantage, perched on a coffee shop stool, I pull on my sweater and watch and reflect, While much has changed in the last twenty years, much remains the same in this funny, odd little place on Planet Earth. The city fathers have looked to upscale the look of the street, yet the fringe folks looking for a handout or attention – homeless street people, some mentally ill who have slipped through the cracks, angry young kids, savvy panhandlers – remain entrenched, some living in alleyways, doorways, and in the lush underbrush of this tourist mecca by night and by day claiming a butt-sized patch of sidewalk. With hats and instrument cases open, ragged street musicians, phenomenally talented troupes of drummers from other cultures, singers belting protest songs, stake out street corners and make the town inhale and exhale. I remember the tiny fiddler who played off-key for movie goers as they exited the theater. He died last year. And I wonder about the strange man in a pink tutu and tights, with matching umbrella, who, in tattered ballet shoes, shuffled up and down the sidewalk in slow motion, his gaze unwavering, daring you to look away first.
    Late Summer Today
    Fast Forward. Border’s is no longer. Forever 21, in eight-foot letters, is now emblazoned on the storefront. Del Williams Jewelry is but a memory, You needed an elusive replacement part for broken treasures, you went there. Others, 00too, are no longer a presence. The economy has taken its toll and it’s slow to recover. Starbuck’s and Peet’s, along with some local beaneries, have customers bulging from their sticky doors, while outside, protesters of conditions and/or wages pace in tight circles carrying signs. Panhandlers still hassle diners, as they shovel in ethnic foods in sidewalk cafes. The street musicians remain, too, despite the whitewashed facade on the buildings rimming the street, and it’s still some of the best music you’ll hear. Life vibrates through the tree-named streets that lead you to the Garden Mall – Cedar, Walnut, Laurel. Despite the still-empty lots dotted here and there, life hums here. Young people gather and spill into surf shops that tout the best wetsuits and chic attire. They finger local produce at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market. Cinema 9 has eleven screens, and lines trail around the corner, past the Bay Federal ATM. The scent of Ylang Ylang incense drifts down from an upstairs window. Yes, life’s heart still beats here.
    A few feet from me sits a young women, a street person, asking a passerby for spare change. Her voice is harsh, and she barks an obscenity at him as he spat words at her. Hunched against the afternoon chill and the taunt from his lips, she leans against the building and sucks in a sigh, herself complicit in his response. She knows it.
    When she arrived here, she was undoubtedly full of dreams, as all those absent business owners must have been. Once optimism must have burned in her eager heart, as she made plans for a future here. Perhaps it still does, but is has burrowed itself deep inside, for time on the streets changes people, even the young ones. She’s alone, and as night falls in a strange town, I wonder if she feels the bony edges of fear.
    I stuff my notebook in my bag, curl my hands around the steaming paper cup, and meld into the crowd. It’s a strange town, granted, and it’s home.

  11. I live in Australia, in a small and remote rural town where we all know who’s doing what. I’ve read through these posts and want to book a long holiday there. One day…
    That said, I’m sure many of you would love to come here, too.
    One world, brimming with beauty. Let’s dwell on that with our words.

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