On Hometowns.

I was on Facebook this morning and came across a link posted by a high school classmate to a Forbes.com list of the ‘Most Miserable Cities in America.’ Number 1 is my hometown, Stockton, Calif., based on its unemployment rate, commuting times, income tax, lack of education, home foreclosure rates (highest in the nation) and the list goes on.

My initial reaction was wry amusement, followed by some defensiveness. After all, Stockton is home. Sort of.

I grew up in Southern California, in the Inland Empire on the edge of the desert, but moved to NorCal at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I lived in Stockton for a total of four years before going to D.C. for college, with only short breaks and one summer spent back in CA. It’s been 7 years since I lived there, but when asked where I’m from, I say Northern California, and when pressed, I say Stockton (no one has ever heard of it over here, and very few people on the East Coast have any idea of California’s geography, so saying it’s “near Sacramento” means next to nothing).

But like I said, I’ve been away nearly twice as long as I actually lived there, and I’m trying to figure out if I cling to Stockton because it’s where my parents live, or if it’s because I need a hometown to feel anchored.

What are your thoughts on hometowns? Do you have one and wish you didn’t? Do you not have one and wish you did? Do you claim more than one? Any permutation therein?


16 thoughts on “On Hometowns.

  1. G.D. February 13, 2009 at 1:24 pm Reply

    Whenever someone references Stockton, I think of the Niners, who had training camp there back in the day.

  2. LaJane Galt February 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm Reply

    I grew up in Raleigh, NC. It’s where I’m from, but I feel alienated when I go back. It’s as if any familiarity has become mythical.

  3. shani-o February 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm Reply

    G.D. — Man, Niners’ training camp was like the highlight of the summer. But they eventually bought out their contract and moved to San Jose because Stockton was just too hot (it can get to 110+ in the summer, whereas SF rarely breaks 90).

    LaJane — I think I know what you mean. Except, I embrace the myths when I go home… to the point where driving down familiar roads and running mundane errands take on ritualistic significance.

  4. Grump February 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm Reply

    My hometown is Chicago. As with most folks from here, our approach to things also applies to the beautiful/ugly dynamic of things: It is what it is!

    Yeah, its hella segregated, but you have some of the best and vibrant ethnic communities one could imagine. Its cold as f*ck in the winter, but it just makes folks appreciate the summer even more.

  5. quadmoniker February 13, 2009 at 6:53 pm Reply

    I have a ridiculously complicated relationship with my hometown. Luckily, it’s too small to ever be in the news, so no one can form an opinion on it. But that does mean my state, Arkansas, serves as a stand-in, and the opinions on that are never good.

  6. quadmoniker February 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Also, Shani, do you know Teresa Perez? She is from Stockton, and graduated high school in 1998.

  7. shani-o February 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm Reply

    Grump, I think Stocktonians have that attitude too… the city kinda sucks, but it’s home and we make the best of it. I mean, who else has an Asparagus Festival??

    QM- No… but I moved there in ’98, so even if she went to my school (one of at least five way overcrowded high schools), I would’ve missed her.

  8. nichole February 13, 2009 at 9:12 pm Reply

    i love my hometown of nashville, tn but i’m not ready to settle down there yet, if ever.
    our downtown sucks tho. they’ve been working on that for several years.

    i hate when people give one of the following reactions to be revealing my hometown:

    “oh! they got black people out there?” (nope. just ask the people at fisk, tennessee state, and meharry medical college.)
    “CASHVILLE!” (ugh)
    “ahh. so you’ve been to graceland, then, huh?” (no. that’s in MEMPHIS, buttwad.)

    i left home at 18 to go to college in new orleans and don’t feel like i’m ready to go back, but if i did, it wouldn’t be so bad, mainly because i’m pretty close to my family.

  9. shani-o February 14, 2009 at 10:13 am Reply

    Nichole – that’s really interesting. Most people I know have no plans to return home, unless they’re from Atlanta, for some reason. I certainly don’t see myself settling down in Stockton.

  10. rakia February 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm Reply

    Ha! I’m from Atlanta, and I’ve no plans to return. I haven’t lived there for any substantial amount of time since my high school graduation. For me, it’s too small and too spread out. You have to drive everywhere. And while there are more “professional, upwardly mobile” black people there than a lot of other cities, I find it to be pretty segregated overall. Not my kind of town.

    But you’re right, Shani-O. When I tell people where I’m from, they all wonder why I ever left.

  11. shani-o February 15, 2009 at 7:57 am Reply

    Rakia, lol. Yeah, I mentioned your comment to Charreah and she said you were an anomaly. 🙂

  12. rakia February 15, 2009 at 10:04 am Reply

    Wait a minute. Charreah moved away, too! lol

  13. GVG February 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm Reply


    Sorry, It’s the first thing that came to mind. Honestly, I don’t think anything could say it better.

  14. jiovanni February 18, 2009 at 9:09 am Reply

    I love my hometown but I hate certain aspects of it. I have a little ego when it comes to my hometown. I think it comes naturally for most of us who are born and raised here. I am big city girl. A Philly girl and so, if someone says something bad about my city, I may feel a certain type of way even if I TOTALLY understand why that person said that about my city. And notice I say “my city”. And it’s funny cause I’ve been thinking about leaving for a while as an escape from something I’ve known all my life. And when I hear people say, “you don’t sound like you’re from Philly,” I don’t know whether to be offended or oddly happy about it. In either case, I’m a Philly girl all day every day (even if I can’t stand the fact that we have so many murders and our public transportation line runs slow sometimes and it’s so expensive to move out of my parent’s home right now even in the worse of neighborhoods…etc. etc.).

  15. universeexpanding February 20, 2009 at 9:53 am Reply

    I am defensive about Bermuda, St. Vincent and Toronto, so I suppose those are my hometowns? I would never defend London and should I be in NY in the fall I wonder how my feeling about it will change. I don’t know if I have “hometowns” in the classic sense so much as a collection of places where I “spent time”. I think I have the most nostalgia attached to Bermuda and Toronto. My family is in SVG and nominally I am Vincentian, but sometimes I feel so out of place there.

  16. Charreah March 5, 2009 at 6:07 pm Reply

    Yes, I’m late on commenting, but I have plans to move back when the time is right;)!!!

    There’s no place like New York when it comes to opportunity – but carrying my kids up and down the train stairs just won’t do. And a house connected to someone else’s just doesn’t really feel like a house . . .

    hometowns. it’s weird. because if you move away for college, you really never live in the city as an adult, so when people ask you the hot spots you think puppet shows and the circus. I just got back from Atlanta, and while I had a GREAT time, I also got snowed an extra day which reminded me of some of the reasons I left in the first place . . .

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