My Hometown


After eighteen years of growing up in a small town in western New York, I professed my heartfelt feelings by wanting to get as far away from it as I possibly could. I can’t stress that enough, I wanted to get the hell outta dodge and put that place far, far behind me.

I have bit of a love/hate relationship with my hometown.

When you’re a kid, it’s all about your block, your friends, baseball in fields behind the houses, climbing that huge Ash tree next to the house that doubled as a ladder to the roof, a dip in the Erie Canal on a hot summer day. Growing up, I loved my hometown, or at least my little piece of it.

Contrary to what some think, this is "New York" too.


Eighteen years later and all I could think of was to put that town behind me. I swore I’d never go back … except maybe for Christmas. Christmas dinner in an Italian household is something to behold.

Yeah… I’d go back for that.

You go out, see the world and make your way. You find yourself, lose yourself and find yourself again, but your hometown is always a part of you, whether you realize it or not. No matter how annoyed you might have been with your life in this quaint little town, you find yourself wanting to go back, you need to go back. At some point all is forgiven … well … most of it anyway.



It’s a “young” little Victorian town. Young in the sense that the university brings throngs of new faces every September, that seem to double the population. It’s a college town and the students bring with them a fresh pair of eyes. They infuse the town with different views from an endless variety of backgrounds. I think that being a “townie” exposed you to a wider view of the world. It gave me that “wanderlust,” it made me want to get out there and see some of it.


Going back years later you’re struck by the Yin and Yang. Sure… things have changed but a lot is still the same. Stately Victorian homes stand in contrast to the rigid modern architecture of the high school, or the big box department store/strip mall on the edge of town. Older neighborhoods (like the block I grew up on) are in contrast to the boxy angular apartments that fill what used to be the empty lot where you used to play.


Just when you think it’s all changed and the hometown you remember is gone, you walk past a spot that still has a memory waiting for you. It’s as if it was sitting there all this time just waiting for you to come along, pick it up and remember.

Going Home

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult. I suddenly found myself in an empty house, the house I grew up in. It’s a place I know intimately, every nook, every corner. Not entirely certain of what to do next, I cooked. I made myself some dinner and filled the kitchen with smells that make the empty room feel full again, garlic, tomatoes, the yeasty fragrance of fresh bread, the sizzle of pancetta in an old cast iron skillet.


That heavy black skillet. It’s the pan I remember steak and eggs being cooked in, nearly every morning, as my father made breakfast before school. I got up early, he was up earlier. It was a brief moment when it was just the two of us. There were times we barely spoke, “Do you want some?” Sometimes entire conversations took place with barely a word.

I walked around the house looking at deeply familiar things, they looked different, the whole house was different. I suppose out of habit, I found myself taking pictures, desperately trying to capture something before it was gone.

Growing up, the basement was a playground, a classroom. Sawdust covered everything, the air full of the smell of wood and varnish. Coffee cans carefully labeled with the size of every nut, bolt, screw and nail anyone might ever need.



Outside is the scene of countless summertime dinners and clam bakes, a patio of carefully laid brick, a stone fireplace centerpiece. The garden delivered not only color from countless flowers, but thyme, parsley, rosemary, tomatoes, squash, eggplant … it was its own little neighborhood ecosystem.




This is the place I played, I grew, I learned the things they don’t teach in school (a terrible cliche isn’t it). Now it’s quiet. The plants need water. It feels as if someone has just left and in a minute or two, the door will open and …  everything will be ok.

Soon there will be another summer, that deep green everywhere you look, the birds, those damned squirrels. It’s different now, but If I stop for a minute, I can hear it, the cacophony of another summer in this house, or a fall, or any other season.  I will always carry it inside of me and I can go home whenever I want. If you don’t mind, I’m going outside to play.