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new hometown

Honorary Bulldog U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who I emailed recently for clearance to visit the White House and Congress. Looking forward to that return email, Senator Wyden. via

Live one place long enough, it’s your new hometown.

If you even have a hometown you ought to feel lucky. Feel lucky it’s not your ‘home floor’ or ‘home building’ or ‘home block.’

Hometown feel pretty good compared to some places. Except every hometown has the same stigmas as every city, just smaller.

Which brings up the difference between hometown and small town. What if your hometown is small? You come from a small hometown, as opposed to the LA hometown, or big hometown.

Every city/town has more in common than not, like places you shouldn’t go and people you shouldn’t see.

The wrong people on the wrong side of town don’t add up to right.

My hometown was small, it’s smaller now, but until recently I didn’t know how small.

I met a man from Coquille, the Coos County seat. I told him I grew up in North Bend. He snorted a little when he said, “Oh, one of those city boys.”

Not as small as I thought.

Reminds me of a coach you’re never heard of say, “I treat every place I coach like it’s the big time, like big time football, big time basketball, because for most of these kids this is the biggest they’ll ever see or do.”

That was the plan for me in my hometown. At first.

As a small child in the mid-60’s my family lived at the bottom of sand dune with a forest across the street that ate every baseball accidentally tossed in the brush.

A family down on the corner had a big brother a few years older than my own big brother. That kid had friends who looked a little advanced for junior high, like the student who drives to school in the eighth grade, smokes during recess, and already shaves.

The older guys had a raft on a pond on the other side of the sand dune. We followed them up one afternoon, passing the Hearst pond and on to one we’d never seen.

They poled their raft around the pond and left. We waited a few minutes and did the same thing. But they came back. We were hijackers and headed to the other side of the pond, grounded the raft, and ran home scared to death.

Later, we watched those guys walk past our dinner table window with hammers and crow bars. Half an hour later they walked back.

After dinner we walked into the woods to find our tree fort smashed to pieces on the ground.

It got us thinking about a new hometown early.

Trade one small town for another and what do you get? Another small town, except it’s not your hometown. Not yet.

Hometowns need history. Like brothers and sisters who grew up together, as adults they need to see one other without the historical baggage. Like normal people.

At first your new hometown feels normal. You checked the demographics, neighborhoods, school, and it all looked good on paper.

If you’re married with children you keep a sharp eye on everything. Soon enough you learn about the homeless camp by the railroad tracks, the same tracks your kids climb across on the way to school every day.

You learn about the murdered mom and the husband suspect who still lives with their kids.

That cute little river down by the park trails used to deliver sewage from every toilet in the county to Lake Oswego’s Sucker Lake. It’s better now.

How to sink roots in your new hometown.

Volunteer in the classroom. Attend games. Help with the ice cream social.

The more you do, the more you feel your new hometown roots tangling with long-time root balls.

Generations of families lived there long before you’d even heard of it. They left, went to college, and come back to start new families in a long line.

This is when you see your new hometown for what it is: You kids’ hometown, not yours. But you’ve been gone from your old hometown so long it isn’t the same either.

Luckily Facebook clears up any confusion. You friend people you used to know, names you recognize, until you end with the same strangers online as you live with offline.

It’s like you never left, and when you did, your small hometown swerve followed you.

By your new hometown standards, have you changed?

About David Gillaspie
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