Timothy McVeigh stayed here.

Timothy McVeigh stayed here.

I am 36 years old, and damned if I’ve made peace yet with the weird, ugly place where I was raised. I’ve spent over half my life defining myself against it – I wasn’t born there, I hasten to point out, I was transplanted as a small child from my native Southern California (a laughably short nativity). I’ve cautioned people to not stop when they drive through my hometown en route to Vegas, used its name as a descriptor for certain types of gun-toting nutjobbers/yokels, and still think of it as a bastion of the worst kind of small-minded conservatism.

But even at my most virulent, I wouldn’t have wanted to trade out all those years I spent roaming the desert as a child with dirty, scratched-up legs, eating the bitty black seeds of barrel cactus fruits and sucking the bitter stems of the plant that, once steeped, yields Mormon tea. I think of all that now and wonder what my son will lose coming up in the suburbia of Tucson. (Though kids create their own satisfying cultural microcosms, geography notwithstanding.)

I’ve staged two major attempts to write about home, but both failed. One was through the wrong lens, the other was psychologically sloppy, too quickly resolving my ambivalence about home into what my adviser referred to as sullen acceptance. There’s an essay in there, but I’m still a ways from finding it. I kind of envy people who have uncomplicated love relationships with their hometowns, but maybe they just have better hometowns than me (ie, Roger Ebert, John Hughes).

Ambiguity is probably closer to the norm, and the ladies get it right re: their respective homes.




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