from Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?
I'm From Everywhere
Kenneth M. Walsh
How do you answer the question “Where are you from?” when you’ve lived in half a dozen places, some of them longer than in the place where you were born?
My boyfriend, Michael, always teases me about being “from everywhere.” You see, he’s from New York. He was born in New York. He grew up in New York. He lives in New York. Both his parents and all three of his siblings were born and raised in New York. It’s pretty straightforward—even taking into account a year he spent in Miami Beach. (But don’t all New Yorkers eventually move to Miami?)
With me, well, I guess where I’m from depends on who else is in the room.
You’re from Detroit? So am I! I was born just outside, in Royal Oak, and lived in neighboring Madison Heights until I was nearly twelve. After my family left the Motor City, I went back every summer to visit friends until I graduated from college. (Needed to squeeze in a few extra trips to Boblo!) From Korvettes and Little Caesars to Vernors and Town Club pop, I’m a Michigander through and through. And I can add an apostrophe s to the end of proper nouns for no reason with the best of them. (“Who wants to go to Kmart’s?”)
You’re from Phoenix? So am I! We moved to nearby Mesa just before my twelfth birthday, and I went to junior high, high school, and college there. From Dillard’s and Broadway Southwest to Peter Piper Pizza and Wallace and Ladmo, I’m a Phoenician through and through. It’s also where I’ve called “home” the last thirty years because my parents and my sister still live there, along with my sister’s husband and my niece and nephew.
You’re from Southern California? So am I! Orange County? Sure. After college I crashed at a friend’s apartment in Huntington Beach for a while and then lived even closer to the ocean for a year while working at the Orange County Register. From the Boom Boom Room and Newport Station to South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island, I’m an Orange County guy. More of a Los Angeles type? So am I! Orange County was as boring as Phoenix, so I moved to the Westside of Los Angeles for a year, living in an apartment on South Bundy Drive just a stone’s throw from where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman met their fate. I also lived there during the L.A. riots, after the cops who beat Rodney King were acquitted of all charges. I chose an apartment on Bundy because I thought West Hollywood would seem “too gay,” but it didn’t take long for me to realize my decision was just queer. All that living in West Los Angeles instead of West Hollywood did was ensure I’d have to drink and drive every night, because my roommate and I were entirely too gay not to go out every night in West Hollywood. A 1920s bungalow in West Hollywood was the solution, on a tree-lined street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue just off La Cienega. Where else could a twenty-three-year-old suburbanite end up involved with a tattooed muscle-bound model on a Harley Davidson?
Oh, but you’re from San Diego? My roommate in Orange County and I used to head down there all the time to go bar-hopping at Flick’s, Rich’s, and the West Coast Production Company. I later spent even more time down the coast when my stepfather’s work took my parents to Carlsbad, where they bought a house in the La Costa area, one of the most beautiful communities I’ve seen.
You’re from Pottsville, Pennsylvania? I’ve never lived there, but that’s where my dad was born and raised—and it’s the town a whole portion of the Walsh clan still calls home. My brother Bill was born there, too. And it’s just obscure enough that if someone mentions it, of course I’m going to claim it as my own. Nothing but the dead and dying in that little town, but my grandfather made a name for himself as a boxer, boxing promoter, and a sports writer at the Pottsville Republican, so it’s a source of great pride for Walshes around the region.
You’re from Washington? Funny thing, Washington’s my “other home”! My mother lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, in the late 1950s and attended high school in nearby Silver Spring at the Academy of the Holy Names. She met and married my father in the D.C. area, and her aunt and uncle—Dorothy and Ernie—lived in Silver Spring and later in Potomac. We used to visit them a lot when I was a kid, going out to their little place in Rehoboth Beach in the summertime, before “the gays” took over, as Aunt Dorothy later explained it. When I was in college in the ’80s, I interned on Capitol Hill and immediately felt at home in D.C.—then I moved there officially in 1993 and stayed five years. My brothers moved there as well. My oldest brother, Bill, and his clan are still there, and after returning to Phoenix for a number of years, my brother Terence is back in the Washington area, as are a big group of my closest friends (Ken, Jean, Kandy, Kristen, Paula). For many years after I arrived in New York, Washington was the go-to location for holidays when I couldn’t be with my family in Arizona.
Oh, but you’re from Virginia? I’m actually a former Virginian, too! I wasn’t going to bring it up, but I did live in Arlington for a number of years with my Colombian boyfriend, Rafael. While many people think Northern Virginia is the same thing as living in Washington, it’s really not. I can talk the Metro Orange Line and Rio Grande Mexican food with the best of them, and I got to know the countryside pretty well too, even though I wanted to live in the District.
So the next time somebody asks me where I’m “from” and I can’t give them a straight answer, would someone please tell my guy to leave me alone? I think of myself as a New Yorker now—and I’ve heard it said that once you’ve lived here ten years, you become one—but if I dare tell people I’m from New York, Michael scoffs at a non-native claiming such rights. So until I figure out a better response, I guess it’s true: I’m from everywhere.
Kenneth M. Walsh is a writer, editor, and blogger based in New York City. His popular site—Kenneth in the (212)—has been featured on the New York Post’s famed Page Six, Gawker, Romensko, BuzzFeed, New York magazine’s Daily Intel, Advocate.com, Out.com, and VH1’s Best Week Ever. In 2012 it was nominated for About.com’s Best Gay Blog Readers’ Choice award. A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Walsh has a career in media that spans two decades, with reporting and editing gigs at the New York Times, the New York Post, the Orange County Register, and the Arizona Republic. He is currently a contributor to theHuffington Post and the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful is his first book.
Copyright © 2014 Kenneth M. Walsh.
Reprinted by permission of the author.