I am not interested in delving into this topic in some broadly philosophical way. Rather I want to explore my own perceptions of the places I have been and the places I will go. I am going to Indiana for Christmas, to visit family and friends. Then I am going to L.A. for New Year's to see more friends and enjoy a little bit of warmish weather (let's hope this is not a repeat of my freezing New Orleans adventure last January). My associations with these two places are worlds apart. Having lived in NYC or at least the Tri-State area for 17 1/2 years, I no longer identify as a Hoosier. I never fit in all that well to begin with, and now when I go "home" I focus on the things I did love...people. True, there is some pride associated with being from a small town in the midwest, but most of that pride comes from shallow boasts such as being able to tolerate blizzards considerably better than New Yorkers. But I spent years going on and on about how much I hated Indiana, how much I hated my hometown of Plymouth and how much I hated small town politics. Being from the place, there may have been some basis for my bitterness, but really, what did I hate so much? I had a fairly cushy childhood. I was a good student, I sang in swing choir and acted in school plays, played drums in the band and was one of the "stars" of the speech team (not tooting my own horn here, I actually won quite often). I also had good friends and a supportive family. If I had to pinpoint the one thing that distinguished growing up in a small town from that of a big city, it would be simply this - I lacked anonymity. It was never true that I lacked opportunity, but I believed I did, and I wanted out.
|With my friend Beth...and Miny the cat (as in eeny, meeny, miny, mo) in my backyard...circa...1987ish?|
When I was 13, my dream partially came true. My parents and I went to L.A. for spring break and I eagerly absorbed every eclectic aspect of our experience. My mom's cousin lived there. She was (and still is) an art dealer. She had fascinating artist friends. Her daughter took riding lessons at the same place where Loretta Swit rode (I know this because we saw her in the bathroom). We ate some of the best food I'd ever tasted and shopped at the Beverly Center. How much more glamorous and exciting could it get for a midwestern teenager? To add to L.A.'s allure, I was deeply in love with the "hair band" movement taking MTV and VH1 by storm in the mid-late '80s. Yes, I was one of those kids. L.A. was the epicenter of that movement (I realize "movement" is a gross exaggeration, but I feel it necessary to add some kind of self-respect to those trashy musicians who I once so admired). L.A. was where I wanted to be. Alas, it was back to Plymouth after a week. Apart from Chicago, I would not see one of our country's major cities again until I was 17 (I don't count Washington, D.C.). That trip was to New York City for a national speech tournament. It took me approximately zero minutes to fall in love with NYC. It was a no-brainer. I was home. Two years later I moved here. My first apartment was in a residential hotel on the Upper West Side. I attended a musical theater conservatory, shopped at Fairway, hung out in Sheep Meadow late at night with my acting buddies and ate bagels every day. But I never lost any love for L.A. Yes, I went through one of those typical New Yorker/Woody Allen-esque phases where I scoffed at the idea of ever living in L.A. The shallowness, the absurd health trends and lack of any "real" culture...but that was just my new hometown snobbery talking. I was going along with it. The truth is, deep down, I never stopped feeling like I was missing out on something that only existed in Southern California.
|During my last trip to SoCal - San Diego 2006|