Friday, December 23, 2011

Newark, Delaware: An Unlikely Love Song


Sometimes, I want to go home. My homing device is set on one place: Newark, Delaware. Does it inspire many love songs? No. It's not windy; it's not a lot of people's idea of their "kind of town." It's a city that does sleep -- a lot.

Coming up, I was jealous of writers from New Jersey -- at least New Jersey held a placeholder in the American psyche.

Sometimes, growing up, the Chrysler plant would start to stink and my parents would call it in. Now the Chrysler plant is gone.

The creek that I loved as a kid, running behind the neighbors' houses was really just street run-off, but I loved the oily rainbows.

Delaware brought us George Thorogood and Valerie Bertinelli and the dead-pan girl from Parks and Rec.

It IS quaint. It has a little Main Street, now likely lit up with wreaths strung to the telephone poles.

Poe slept at the Deer Park. They keep a stuffed raven on display.

Sometimes I think of the sign out in front of the Travel Lodge that read: Lordy, Lordy, Gordy's 40 -- and I think, damn, Gordy must be closing in on 60 now.

It's where I was a kid, growing up in a yellow house with ivy, snugged up against the heating ducts.

It's where I was dirt poor with the man I love.

It's where 75% of my babies were born.

When my first book came out, it was, at a glance, like the local bookstore (Rainbow Books) was only selling one book. Hundreds of copies were displayed in the front window. And about 400 people came to the signing -- including the two postmen who worked the desk at the Main Street branch, Tom and Jerry -- who took a ribbing while standing in line, after years of all of us standing in their line. They were mentioned in the acknowledgments pages because sometimes I'd ask them to put a little extra love into those packages I sent off. The town was good to me.

Still, I can walk downtown and meet people I haven't seen since I was little -- from a Brownie troop, a bad date, a part-time job in a deli, one of my kids' preschools ...

It's a place where, when I'm there, I live in layers.

I'm not saying Newark, Delaware will burrow into every person's heart, but it's in mine.