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You Can’t Go Home Again

(Full Disclosure: I really couldn’t finish Thomas Wolfe’s book You Can’t Go Home Again. Not that it isn’t brilliantly written because the prose was beautiful. I just couldn’t get my head into the story so I put it down.)

On the way south from Toronto, we stayed a couple of nights in Binghamton, New York, the town in which I grew up from age one until I left for college. It was more or less on the way and I was impelled by some admixture of curiosity and nostalgia. I felt strangely obligated to drive by my two childhood homes. More than that, I wanted to taste an authentic spiedie again and show Deena at least one of the antique carousels.

Binghamton Railroad
The Binghamton Railroad Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This pic by Doug Kerr

The cracker box house with detached garage in which I grew up looked the same except for the awful PINK that someone decided to paint it. That particular color in Deena’s and myself’s old haunt of predominately gay Wilton Manors would have been fine. Here, in the gray skies and muted colors of Binghamton, it made no sense. (Binghamton is the seventh cloudiest and 10th rainiest city in the USA. It’s not the place to live if you have a propensity for winter depression. Really. I’m not making this up.) The other more modern house on the south side of town looked no different from my memory, but we passed by in the night, so it may have well been the dreamscape of weakened synapses.

childhood home
Lived here from age 2 to 14 years. This pic was taken long before it was painted pink.

When I was a kid, the area around Binghamton, the Southern Tier, was a thriving industrial area with IBM, Endicott-Johnson shoes. Link flight simulators, Amsco film and General Electric. Now, it’s a hollowed out shell with one-third less population. Back then, Governor Rockefeller poured money into New York’s educational system and made it one of the best of its day. The surviving SUNY Binghamton, now Binghamton University, is apparently the only thing that keeps this place from becoming a true ghost town. From what I could see, the residents of this city are either the old codgers like my friend Mick, who’s been there his whole life, or the young students of the university. I wonder if the young and old even talk to each other. The few residents in between those ages must be university teachers and support staff.

I feel no guilt for abandoning this particular ship.

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