I sometimes wonder how well many of you know me. Oh, you’re probably aware of my myriad successes in any number of fields – for example you’ve no doubt marveled at my ability to write and direct flawless, Oscar-winning films. You’ve also likely seen me on TV winning countless debates with some of politics’ heaviest hitters (George Will actually cried). If you’re lucky you’ve eaten at my four-star restaurants (the words Moules à la crème Normande and Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc ring a bell?), and if you’re really lucky you’ve seen me sell out Madison Square Garden with just a microphone, a Hyperbass Flute and some oven mitts.
And I haven’t even mentioned my parkour videos.
But do you really know me?
Here’s a bio no one has ever asked for: since I started this blog I have been a resident of California. We moved here back in 2006, just months after Sarah was born, spending seven or so years not too far from L.A. before becoming disillusioned with the area – specifically its complete lack of natural, green habitat, my inability to get even one paycheck in the independent film industry, and the likelihood of dying in a riot. We then moved to the Central Coast, just south of Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay.
That means that we have been Californians for ten years, but before that I was a life-long resident of the Northeast, born in 1971 in a small town in north-central Massachusetts, just near the New Hampshire border. If this sounds to you like an incredibly exciting time and place in our great country’s history to be spending one’s formative years then I feel it’s my obligation to tell you something.
You are absolutely correct.
I grew up in Townsend, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston. Population around 9,000. It’s your typical small, leafy, and occasionally spooky New England town wherein nothing too exciting ever occurs other than the daily commute on rte. 119 to Boston, some run-of-the-mill teenage townie antics, and the occasional triple murder. My first job, at age fourteen, was for the Cemetery Department mowing grass, raking leaves, and digging graves. Average stuff.
So average, in fact, that my home town was recently the subject (that is, if you call 2011 recent) of an article in the Boston Globe that ranked Massachusetts’ towns by looking at several typical statistics – population, age, income, crime, sexual deviancy involving quadrupeds, the likelihood of being chased by hoards of high school football players wielding damp towels as weapons – and found that Townsend, more than any other town in Massachusetts, placed pretty much right in the median on just about everything.
In other words the town I grew up in is, statistically speaking, the most average town in the state.
Of course as I said I grew up in the 70’s, which, come to think of it, is a decade that can actually be called above average. That is if you’re looking at metrics like divorce rates, bad governing, soul-destroying home décor, alcohol and cigarette addiction, casseroles, and child molestation. But hey, we got to ride bikes without helmets! Let’s hear it for the seventies!
As a young stripling my elementary school was Spaulding Memorial, a large, brick 1930’s era monolith that for reasons unclear to just about everyone still to this day sports a menacing, black metal bat (the flying mammal, not the baseball thingy) atop its weathervane, looming over the children below. Does that sound sinister? Well take a look and you tell me:
Nope, not sinister at all.
My High School was North Middlesex Regional High, the population of which included the teenagers of neighboring Ashby (lots of forest, pop. 3,074) and Pepperell (the bad side of the tracks, where I learned to smoke, spit and almost have sex, pop. 11,497). I don’t really recall my teen years at NMRHS as a time in which I was particularly productive and/or successful at anything, but then again, who is (that is, besides lots of people)? As far as I can remember I wasn’t particularly popular, but nor was I unpopular. I didn’t get great grades, but I also didn’t flunk out. Didn’t do sports. I just kind of was.
You know, average.
Anyway, even though Townsend is in many ways a lovely town I left it for good once I hit eighteen, escaping to the big city of Lowell, MA for college and then, after a few years here and there, the Boston area before marrying, spawning, and then coming out West. Being a true New Englander I will always miss the Northeast, but it’s not as if I don’t get plenty of chances to get back there. In fact, I still occasionally visit family, though only when there’s a funeral and I have enough miles.
And hey, so what if it’s a literally average town? It produced me, and as the first paragraph of this post clearly outlines – and if you’ve forgotten it already I strongly recommend that you read it again, it is quite good – I’ve accomplished tons.
If that ain’t above average then I don’t know what is.