Last weekend I found a passionate hobby within my love and hate relationship of small town America. I found myself driving with no direction only stopping periodically to anything that had caught my eye. I would take a quick photo or reflect by closing my eyes and remembering how it felt at that moment. Sight is often the last sense that I use to remember anything. I found myself not too far from my home but in much smaller towns such as Delta, Neapolis, Swanton, and ironically Assumption, Ohio. I loved every moment. It was literally like walking back in time, as I stepped foot in what appeared to be vacated ghost towns. Growing up in Maumee, Ohio gives me very little leverage to downplay the importance of a smaller sized community. However, Toledo was always holding our hand as the bigger brother. I grew up in a city that I’d consider relatively average sized and that has allowed me to have perspective on both sides of the fence. This past weekend gave me permission to be unbiased as I set out to soak up the culture of my surrounding step-cities.
As I walked around for a few minutes and peered within the few store fronts that now entirely consisted of thrift shops, I felt as though I had walked back in time. These smaller sized cities were eerily reminiscent of being twenty odd years behind us in technology. This made me extremely jealous. I had this warm feeling of unpaved country roads, apple trees, children without bicycle helmets, and absolutely no street lights. Horses roamed over the tiny rolling hills and ponds in your front yard were a sign of being distinguished. I imagined no cell phones, pot luck dinners, bon fires, and fridges full of chilled apple cider. As I roamed the towns for a mere three minutes, I noticed that the only business open past 5pm on a Saturday was the local Taverns. This, to me, is a very uncomfortable small town must.
As I walked in, I immediately felt as though they knew I had never stepped foot in their city before. Everyone had haircuts from the 80’s and smoked cigarettes as though they had yet to hear about the big C and only because it’s just been talked about on this new phenomenon called the http://www.something/In-ter-net. Hell, the crusty old magazines they had lying around only laced every other page with promotion. I glanced around at all seven customers that were sitting at the same table as I tiptoed my way towards a bar stool. Remember my new found hobby? I pretended as though it happened to be 1983. I sat Indian style on my puma minimalist running shoes as if to not disclose that i came from the future and cautiously, yet boldly asked to have what the locals have. With a slight flick of the wrist and a subtle spit of her tobacco, I received a tall scotch and water. In a matter of moments, the bartender asked what I was doing as I was fiddling with my iphone. I said “Nothing, what this old TI-83 or my pager on my hip”? She chuckled. I pretended as if I had saved myself from being erased on a Polaroid photo while my mother and father danced to Johnny Be Good.
Living in a small town has its positives and negatives. I often tend to compare it to house arrest (thankfully, I wouldn’t know) I feel as though we are stuck; this being a negative. Needless to say, this is what I know and have come to appreciate and love. My family and friends are here. My home and heart are securely placed in a city where most people pass through each day in a blink of an eye. I would describe my hometown as a small broom without a dustpan. You absolutely can not shake your past. People are still known for their game winning home run in little league baseball or their reputation in high school. Every person in this city is 4 degrees of separation from someone else they have slept with. Your childhood home is a bike ride away, and now you are drinking at the same bar your father did and still is.
My ex girlfriend walked past me today in silence. Perhaps and deservingly because of my actions that I will take full responsibility for. This is neither here nor there, but it’s painstakingly unavoidable where I live. We went from needing passports, to no longer acknowledging one another. It’s something that I may never completely adapt to. Someone recently sent me a private message to my blog saying that I would be better suited for a bigger city. That I seem like a sore thumb where I am and I would fit perfectly in a city that would allow me more opportunities. To not have a drink with my gym coach at the local watering hole, personally know the local sheriff, and possess the ability to become a new identity each and every day without being prejudged. It’s a very tough situation because I find myself directly on top of the fence. I have a small town heart with big city dreams. I live with the grass stains on my knees and a doors unlocked lifestyle. I just can’t sweep up my past without reliving it on a daily basis. Heartbreak is visible in a small town and that is often why they become gossiping, tight knit communities. Your past will never leave you or anyone that knows of you.
Al in all, I can not and will not leave. I love my family and cherish where I come from. Sometimes I take this for granted, but deep inside my heart it’s the most comfortable feeling I’ve ever known. Not unlike previous relationships, I enjoy the comfort of knowing someone loves me and is always just a stones throw away. This is what I have come to know as love. A comfort at a slight distance. This is my definition of the hometown I may live in for the rest of my life; Maumee, Ohio. Damn, I love you.