My Hometown

The bowling alley is a Shell station. Friendly’s is Jersey Mike’s. Korner Market, which sponsored my Little League team, is a flower shop.

But what’s worse is I didn’t recognize my own house, the split-level I grew up in.

I was cruising down the street, I made the turn where my mother’s Falcon did a 360 on the ice, and I couldn’t believe Coral Drive, the cross-street, came up so soon. Where was 153 Farist Road?

That’s when I realized they’d cut down the trees. So there was no line between my old house and the neighbor’s.

And the house seemed so small. Especially in these days of 3000+ square feet. There were three bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs. My sisters shared one. I had one. And my parents were in between. And once my sister Jill wouldn’t come out of the bathroom and I had to go so I ended up kicking the door and putting a hole in it, which remained, for years.

This was the bathroom I used to soak in on Saturday nights, when I was home alone. I’d pull the speaker off my Columbia all-in-one stereo and put it by the bathroom door and listen to WOR-FM, that was the original free-format station in New York.

And they enclosed the porch. There were curtains. It was almost like I never lived there.

And the hills were small. Everything’s big when you’re a kid. I drove past Bobby Hickey’s house where we used to ski in the backyard, the vertical drop was maybe ten feet, but that didn’t stop us. It looked almost unskiable today.

And at first the Little League played down the street, very convenient, and then they switched fields to Melville Drive at the edge of the projects. I used to ride my Raleigh there, I was surprised how far away it was. And when we won, Mr. Russo took us to Dairy Queen. But that was on Black Rock Turnpike, on the other side of my house. So, after the victory I’d immediately hop on my bike and if I was lucky I’d get there just when they were ordering. We won a lot. One year the Town Championship, the year after runner-up.

And when I lived there everybody was a first owner. They built the houses in the fifties and sixties and young families moved in. Now most of those parents are dead. And new families are in residence. But the old edifices remain. Some worse for wear, many with additions, so it’s the same yet different.

The high school changed its name, and its mascot. Now they’re the Mustangs instead of the Crimson Eagles, it’s like our entire history has been wiped out.

But I did not look back on those school days with fondness. The bullying, the tests, I’m amazed we made it through.

And those schools were built the same time as the houses. They all consist of this red brick.

But down by the shore they’ve torn down the old houses and built mini-mansions. Because now people have more money. Used to be we were all middle class, rich meant you drove a Cadillac. Now there are the haves and the have-nots.

And there’s a pizza place on seemingly every corner. I know, I know, there’s pizza all over the world, but it’s best in Italian communities, like Bridgeport.

And we went to the oyster bar and they had nine varieties. Out west you’re lucky if they have two. The best was the Large Pemaquid from Maine. It was gigantic, and tasty.

And the cars had rot. We used to call it cancer. The salt eats at the bodies. Not every automobile, but more than a few. No one’s driving fifteen year old cars in Connecticut.

And there’s no traffic, on even the busiest streets. You can cruise everywhere, at least on the weekends.

And it’s so green! I always heard this from visitors, but now being ensconced on the west coast I was stunned how the average front yard looked like a golf course.

But most of the trees hadn’t changed yet, they hadn’t flowered. It was in the fifties. I’m not gonna use my short sleeve shirts.

And it was gray and rained. A revelation if you live in L.A. The heaviest downpour doesn’t last in Los Angeles. It’s raining cats and dogs, and then a couple of hours later, it’s bright and sunny, just when you got into a good book, or a Netflix series. You can no longer justify being inside and lazy.

And they’re serious on the east coast, where you went to school is important. In the west you make it up as you go, you can reinvent yourself. Prior to Facebook you could move away and never hear from those you grew up with ever.

And my mother is in her nineties. And most of her friends have died. And when she goes…

I’ll probably never go back to my hometown.

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