Originally posted on Facebook–September, 2009

I am a small town guy.

I was born in the oldest seaport in the country. A place stuck in time, with an aging population committed to family and tradition. It is a love-hate relationship I hold with Gloucester. So beautiful, yet, so ugly. Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Rudyard Kipling all spent significant time writing by Gloucester’s harborside. Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer, and Edward Hopper were all inspired to create priceless paintings that have kept the city’s captivating seascapes safe for the ages. Only years ago, however, did Gloucester once again obtain international notariety; this time for the infamous “pregnancy pact.” And like many small towns, news spreads faster than fire…

I am a small town guy.

So often I try to deny it. I’m not even sure I have a good reason as to why. Every time I venture home, I find the quaint roads and slower pace addictive. Never have I enjoyed being in large crowds, rather being in small settings with loyal, life-long friends. At the same time, as a youth, I was terrified of becoming a “townie.” NBC even launched a sitcom based out of my town named “Townies,” starring Molly Ringwold, when I was sixteen. A “Friends” rip-off, the show was short-lived. I found the depictions of the local townies hilarious, as I felt they were quite accurate…others in Gloucester, traditionalists, did not feel similarly. I did not want to have the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge be the boundaries of my reality. Believing there was more to experience, I attended school in Virginia, graduate school in Ohio, and currently live in Georgia.

Many of the top students from my graduating class did the same, finding success elsewhere. If not an employee of Gorton’s or working in one of the trades (carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc.), career opportunities are limited in Gloucester.

Yet, while I have no regrets for leaving Gloucester—and have lived the past ten years in other places—there will always be a part of my heart tied to my hometown.

I am a small town guy.

When I was young, I wanted to be a high-school athlete. My father and I would go to the high school football games—as did much of the town’s population—to cheer for the football team. Some of my favorite moments revolved around the Thanksgiving game, when we played our historic rival, Danvers. My nose may have been frostbitten, my hands numb, and my throat raspy from singing “Gloucester By The Sea,” but all I could remember was the passion of Gloucester’s players. You didn’t just play for the high school, but for the city’s pride. And it was, and is, rare that we lost; regardless if it was the Fighting Fishermen on the field…or those in the stands. Established around a blue-collar work ethic, the town’s people are relentless when focused on a task; reflected by the numerous state championships held by the high school in various sports .

I am a small town guy.

While I was home this past weekend, I went for a run through town, as I used to do in high school. Everyone that I passed waived and smiled at me. As I roamed downtown, a few people stopped me to ask me what I’ve been doing, telling me they remembered me from high school sports or class and had wondered what had happened to me…they even got my name right…

I am a small town guy.

Neighborhoods in Gloucester only change when people die. The Greeke’s, Brown’s, Mineo’s, Ryan’s, O’Brien’s, and Guarrasi’s have called Ellery Street home as long as I’ve been living…

Small town people typically do their own yardwork, and I took the chance to cut my parent’s lawn—when you don’t have to do it all the time, it’s enjoyable. As I was cutting the lawn, I thought of how my friend Nate and I built the front porch to the house, and how Jeremy and I cleared all the brush from the backyard—how fulfilling it was at the time. While in the front yard, neighbors waived to me as they drove by. Our next door neighbors, Nick and Joan Guarrasi, arrived home while I was finishing the lawn, and spoke to me as if they hadn’t seen me in years.

Nick and Joan are wonderful people. When I was in Cub Scouts, Nick let me into his shop, and helped me make a killer Pingree racer. Joan was always around to help us out when our parents were unavailable. Both are nearing their eighties. Their lawn was overgrown, and really needed to be cut. I offered, and they hesitantly accepted. Neither wanted to burden me, but were appreciative of the assistance. It was a chance to be there for them, as they were there for me for so many years.

I want to be part of a neighborhood like that one day because…

I’m a small town guy.

I want people to remember my name, and smile when I pass them in the grocery store. I want to be able to help my neighbor without them thinking I’m trying to swindle them in some way. If ever I have children, I want them to be able to allow them to run around the neighborhood freely and not be fearful. I want to be able to run down the streets at night unafraid of being attacked. I want to be able to enjoy driving stick, undeterred by an onslaught of stop lights. I yearn for some stability in my life. I want to enjoy life rather than race through it. Regardless of where I live, I want to remember, acknowledge, and act as God made me…

and He made me a small town guy.

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4 thoughts on “Small Town Guy

  1. I love living in a smaller city myself, I see the same faces when I go into the 711 or grocery store. At work people I know are always coming in and saying hello with a hug. Although my city is only famous for blink 182, tony Gwynn and Philip rivers. It’s really nice being able to walk around free a fear and always seeing a friendly face. When I walk into the bar even it’s like a reunion. Nothing beats the slow paced simplicity of a small town. Loved your post! By the way I remember that pregnancy pact thing I was pretty shocked I wonder if it has anything to do with shows like 16 and pregnant.

  2. The pregnancy pact event occurred in 2008, and the 16 and pregnant show came out in 2009…so yeah, the show was likely ‘conceived’ as a result of the event. I wasn’t too shocked…there are a lot of broken families in Gloucester (it’s a tough, gritty town), and the girls probably wanted to feel loved by someone…and went about it the wrong way. Kids, at least when I was growing up there, roamed free for the most part.

  3. It’s funny to think that when I was 16, I was really only worried about my color guard routine, tutoring program and SATs. Boys and other things that go along with them wasn’t even a passing thought.

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