Thursday, July 19, 2007

reflections on the hometown

After 37 years I am still amazed each time we return to North Olmsted and I discover small pockets of the city; unknown neighborhoods that have always been here but I never roamed into during my youth. I grew up thinking that this Cleveland suburb was so small and restrictive. The only thing I wanted more than becoming a filmmaker was to get out of here. How many of us have felt the same way? How many of us left seeking the American Dream only to return to Ohio time and time again to find some comfort or to escape the hardness of the world? Or, how many have stayed here, finding the surroundings just right? How many decided that there are enough dark corners in this city to make up for the L.A.'s, Miami's or New York's in the country?

Oh, and there are dark corners. Some mornings, when I'm on a walk in my in law's neighborhood, I'll take a left when normally I would have travelled straight. And upon that turn what do I find but a seemingly peaceful cul de sac with just one entrance from the main road. Tract houses built in the 60's still retain their sense of pride the original owners' must have felt that first day they crossed the thresh hold. Trees as tall as the sky and as thick as tanks stand proud and protective, holding within them the mysteries, secrets and histories of a North Olmsted I never knew. On the rare occasion I see someone out watering their lawn with a hose or cleaning up after their dog, eyes grow narrow and suspicious of the stranger in the cut off sweats and grungy t-shirt air drumming to Crowded House on one of those MP3 thingies. I wonder what happened on these streets, in those houses. Did children live there? Were there classmates of mine I never got acquainted with reside in those houses? I am left to wonder.

And there are nights driving the dark streets of North Olmsted in the wee morning hours. I'm often compelled to venture into developments I never entered once I received my drivers license. Why didn't I? What stopped me from just veering the Whomobile into this place or that to better understand my hometown. Lord knows there were enough opportunities of just cruising on a Saturday night, with Zeppelin, or Floyd, or Lou Reed, or The Who, or U2 blaring over the rattled speakers to do some exploring. I could analyze for days, but I know the truth: I had already left North Olmsted by the time I was 15 and I decided that a life in the movies was the life for me. You don't make movies in Ohio, at least, that's what I thought. Once my folks moved to Tucson, I never thought I'd step foot in North Olmsted again.

Starnge how life works. Julie's parents moved here in 2000, and now, whenever we come back to Ohio for a family visit, I walk the same beaten sidewalks I used to. I can't tell you how many times I've wandered through the mall, looking at faces of shoppers, wondering... sometimes hoping I would see someone I recognize. But none of these faces are familiar to me. Neither is the mall, for that matter. However, what I have learned in these past 14 years is that you don't need a big city to get a big mystery, or a compelling drama, or a heartbreaking love stroy. John Steinbeck taught me that. Arthur Miller and Barry Levinson taught me that. Bruce Springsteen taught me that.

And North Olmsted has taught me that.


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