Sunday, November 02, 2008

What Defines You?

Whenever I spend time in some place new, it occurs to me that I would be a very different person if I lived in that place. Or had grown up there. A person in Portland, Maine only shares some macro characteristics with someone from Philly/Detroit.

What have you taken from the place you live now or grew up in? How has it made you--you? My answer would harken back to my blog post of last Monday. The car industry has always been a big part of my life.

How about you? What place has influenced you and in what way?

21 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I grew up in small-town America in the '50s. That's pretty much defined my life.

August West said...

Grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. Watching "Combat" TV show, collecting baseball cards, comic books and reading my first Mickey Spillane novel. As a kid, glued to the TV for the Mercury, Gemini, & Apollo space missions. My America, and I loved every minute of it.

David Cranmer said...

I grew up in the country in upstate New York. Can't take the country out of the boy though with all the traveling I do I'm quite comfortable in the big city.

Barrie said...

Canada. I learned way way after the fact that my parents considered moving back to Belfast at one point in my childhood. I imagine that would've really changed me.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Patti:

You're in Portlant, ME now? Here's a restaurant you have to go to--it's one of the best in the NE area--Grisinni's in Kennebunkport, which is probably only a half from Portland. It's is excellent.

--Dave

John McFetridge said...

This is a great question, Patti.

I grew up in the english working-class of Montreal in the 60's and 70's, a time often referred to as the "Quiet Revolution," when Quebec went from being a place run by a small english minority to a fully French place.

As always, lots was gained and lots was lost in that kind of cultural shift. The Quebecois were much more accepting of the fact that there would be economic losses involved in the change, so Montreal, host of Expo 67 and the Olympics in 1976 fell on "hard times," but there was always a sense of sacrifice for a greater good.

Maybe this is the easiest example of the change; in the 1950's there were two very small French universities in Quebec that turned out about 500 graduates a year - and most of them were in theology. By 1980 there were four huge French universities in the province graduating thousands of people from every discipline -business being the big one, really, before the "Quiet Revolution" the church-run French schools really had no use for business.

So, yeah, this formed me in lots of ways. Maybe the biggest way was seeing that huge cultural change is possible without war and violence. I guess that makes me optimistic about the world sometimes.

And sometimes it makes me bitter - a little - being english in Quebec in the 50's was living a kind of Jim Crow life where you didn't have to compete with 80% of the population and barely scraping through high school could be enough for english people to get decent enough jobs. Knowing it was wrong didn't make it any easier to suddenly have to compete with all those extra people...

Barbara Martin said...

I grew up in Western Canada which still defines me now that I live in the east. For a time I lived in Quebec where I learned what it was like to be a minority: English in a French province. It tends to take the stuffing out of a person until you adapt. Although I do appreciate the French Canadian sense of humour: 'if you don't like it here the road out is that way'. Its much like that of a westerner's opinion: to the point.

I started out in a small city, went to the country and ended up in larger cities, though I prefer the country life.

Lisa said...

I grew up in Boston and my parents traveled in a diverse social circle that included working class people, educators, musicians, artists and writers. Intelligent discourse, questioning the status quo, education and books were always a part of my life. Imagine my surprise to move away and meet people from other parts of the country with lives that included no such openness and for whom education and intellectual curiosity were suspect. Hmm. I guess this has been going on for a long time.

Randy Johnson said...

I'm small town America also. I can't imagine ever living in a city the size of Greensboro, NC(third largest in the state, population 230,000), let alone any really big city.
I only venture into Greensboro(or Winston-Salem or High Point) when I have to, doing my business and getting out as soon as possible.
The traffic is always horrible and I can imagine what it would be like in one of the major metropolises(shudder).

Todd Mason said...

I grew up in small cities (Fairbanks, Alaska; Enfield, Conn.) and suburbs of large ones (West Peabody, MA; Londonderry, NH; Kailua, HI). I faced a Lot of hostility, particularly open hostility in that lovely New England way from ages 5-14, then met mostly more guarded alienation, more ethnically based, in Hawaii, as well as finding good and admirable people among my peers everywhere (and often puzzled when they didn't like each other). I learned early on that letting others define you for yourself, which is all but impossible to resist entirely, would lead to utter self-abnegation, so you learn to say To Hell With You (or your favorite substitute) quite early on and sometimes even aloud.

Lisa said...

Todd made me realize that it wasn't proximity to Boston that shaped me so much, except there were lots of colleges, universities, museums and cultural opportunities. It was my family and their friends who opened up my eyes to the world. I'd have been different if I'd lived in another part of the country, but I'd still have had that encouragement to be open minded and to learn and ask questions.

debra said...

There is something to a sense of place---some places just feel like home. #2 daughter feels that way in the mountains as long as there is a lake. #1 has found another home in NYC.
I never liked the burbs----growing up in them made me realize how much being in a small town away from the noise and dirt means to me. I do like to be able to go to the city, though, as long as I can come home.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The Philadelphia I grew up in was like a small town in many ways. We never traveled much beyond a ten-mile radius: church, school, grandparents. One week a year at the shore. The time defines you too. Barrie, some of my family came from Belfast. English in Quebec with those changes going on must have made you feel like an outside, John. I went to a school that was 85% Jewish. I was the girl that turned the lights on for the holidays so I felt like an outsider all of the time. We all seem to feel that too as Todd also mentions--the outsider. Randy, you sound like Clair Dickson. My husband grew up in a town of 800. David-Megan was in upstate New York for a year so I know that area a little. Love those finger lakes.
Lisa-Family is the biggest influence. Mine was split-one side quite educated, the other not at all educated. Debra-nobody likes the burbs, I guess. I live six blocks from Detroit, so it is partly burbs. Isn't it great that because of the Internet, we can all meet like this. I am so grateful for that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dave-Home again now and we didn't have a car. Next time. I loved Maine. Loved Portland.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Patti,

I grew up in New York City and have the attitude to prove it!

Terrie

pattinase (abbott) said...

I grew up in Philly and have the attitude to prove it too. Grumpy and underdoggy.

Dana King said...

I grew up in a small (13,000) town about twenty miles from Pittsburgh in the 70s, when mills closed almost weekly. I hadn't thought about it much, but this is probably why I read and write crime fiction. I understand people who are living with the realization that what they depend on to support their familes may be gone tomorrow, and they may have to do what they have to; it's only surprising crime isn't greater in those circumstances.

On the other side, I also have the attitude--rightly or wrongly--that those who have will do just about whatever is necessary to keep it. The law is usually quite helpful in that regard, so their need to go outside it isn't as great as for those on the bottom looking up.

I was, apparently, one of the few white liberals who wasn't offended when Obama referred to those from my general geographic area as "bitter." Damn right they're bitter; few economic advancements trickle down to them.

As you've got me thinking about it, what appeals to me about crime fiction is, to paraphrase Sean Connery in RISING SUN, "They're not going to get away with this." At least not completely.

Thanks for bringing this up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think there is no doubt that those of us who grew up in the rust belt states have a more dour view of things. And I agree, bitter is the truth for many. I think Obama was expressing a truth not defining those people himself.

Patti O said...

I think growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, and having a dad, uncle and grandfather who were all car people and worked for the auto companies definitely defined me. Bob Seger, Motown music, cars, Woodward Avenue, the Tigers, the Red Wings, downtown Hudson's--these are all fond memories.

I am in the midst of redefining myself right now, as I have been in Phoenix, AZ for a little over a year, and I am leading a completely different life than I ever expected, or could have thought of. It will be interesting to see how my past influences my present into my future.

The East Valley of the Phoenix area feels like home to me, and I still appreciate the sunshine every day.

Thanks, Patti, interesting thought!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not growing up in Detroit, certain Detroit things are missing-like a downtown.

Patti O said...

There _used_ to be a downtown, where my parents both actually worked, but I only have vague memories of one. I was born only 3 years before the '67 riots, and my dad's never really like to go downtown. I do remember going with him to his doctor once, who's office was located on Grand Circus Park (where I think Comerica Park is now). My parents did take us to see Santa at Hudson's downtown, and to see the Ice Capades at Olympia Stadium (I think I was there several times, thank goodness, before it was torn down). To be honest, I really don't think a true downtown will ever return to Detroit, as much as I hate to say it.