How far you travel

I grew up in a place like this one.

I grew up in a village in Yorkshire, back in England. English readers may have an idea about the sort of place it might be. A little bit rural, it’s nearest towns old industrial towns, with many deserted mills, remnants of the fallen industries like cloth and textile production. In fact the village I grew up in had many of these, and had a canal passing through it, the original way to move goods from one place to another before the roads took over. Many of these factories have now been converted to modern flats (apartments), so at least all the old buildings are not totally lost. These buildings were still empty when I lived there.

Growing up there, visiting a place like Hollywood seemed a million miles away. Even travelling to London in those days seemed far. There was much of a small town mentality there. As it turned out, once I hit 16 and finished my GCSEs, my parents and I moved south (of London), so going to London became less of a big deal, although still fun. I continued with my education, moved again for university, before settling back in the south east of England. Over the years it was easier to view that village mentality from the outside. Everything seems so far away. I had seen more of the world, met many people from around the world, and seen many different perspectives. These days, air travel is much more common, and the internet has brought things closer together so imagine it would be different growing up there now. Although I had a nice childhood growing up there, I’m thankful that I moved away when I did.

Preceded by a few lean years, in the past six years, I met my wife, proposed and got married, moved country, and had a son. I’m not sure how it all came about, and worked out this way, well I do know, so you’ll have to take my meaning, but either way, I’m certainly not complaining. I now live in Southern California, a long long way from where I grew up. Myself I’m not interested in celebrities and celebrity (I hesitate to call it) culture, I just respect or look up to an artists work. It’s kind of cool being able to drive into Hollywood, but not that special to me. To many where I grew up, living in California, close to this, not too far from beaches or mountains, the warm climate, is “living the dream”. It is nice, I like it a lot here, I like the people, don’t get me wrong, but balanced off against the dream is the reality. The somewhat barbaric medical system, education cuts, and a seemingly inability to tax the rich folks a bit more, when they certainly can afford to contribute a bit more. The UK sure isn’t perfect, but if nothing else, it has a medical system where you do not have to consider the cost and then debt. There is no cost. With any place there are upsides and downsides, thankfully more of the former.

A few months back when driving into Hollywood to visit Amoeba records, with my son sat in the back seat of the car, this all struck me. I was driving into Hollywood on a saturday morning. The young me would have thought this one of the best things ever (the young me knew nothing of LA traffic, but that is another story). I wondered how a lad from Yorkshire finds himself in this position. My son, assuming we continue to live in Orange County as he grows up, will have a completely different upbringing to me. Totally different environment. He will know next to nothing of Yorkshire, how those old communities worked. How people dressed (especially the older generations). What the history of the place was. Even something small like blackberry picking along the banks of the canal. He will live in an area where Disneyland is not a once in a couple of years trip, it is a short drive away. Where we can get to the beach easy, or drive out into the desert easy, and get stuck in traffic often. He will have all the technological advances we have now and more. Will this transform schools? Even if it doesn’t, the American schooling system is different to the English one, even down to how the students form cliques. He will (hopefully) learn much from me but in many ways, his upbringing will be thousands of miles from mine.

How did I get to a place that I never imagined I would growing up, yet it not be a big deal, and it be normal. I imagine the “not a big deal” is because it has become normal. When I first visited America, I had a week around Orange County / LA for various trips (beaches, Disneyland, Universal studios, a wedding), met my wife, travelled to Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco a drove the pacific coast highway through Big Sur back down to Orange County. It was an amazing trip and in many ways led to where I am now. I visited several more times before ending up living here. And now I have had a child here. It isn’t a road I could have planned, but it is the road I travelled.

When I think about how much my life has travelled, moved and changed since that move at 16 years old, I realise that I have been on a journey, or many journeys, depending on how you want to break it up. This is that substance that writers and storytellers are after. I realise that however unlikely it might have seemed when I was younger, that I would end up here, at this point in my life (hopefully with still a lot of life to live), that it is what happened. I can join the dots and see how I got here. This is what to bring to characters, stories, or both. The journey might seem unbelievable, but if you provide the the dots and “true” ways to join them, then the journey will feel a real one. Now I come to think of it, that is how you would devise a plot in a crime drama or mystery. But if you get stuck, look back at your own life, look at how far you travelled, and transfer a little of that mystery, or at least the spirit of it, to this thing that you are creating.

Lexicon word of the day: pabulum.


25 comments on “How far you travel

  1. Yes, USA med system a shambles except for those with top notch insurance. I am lucky to be one of those through Florida retirement system. Seems all the people against Obama Care are ones that have such insurance. If they would stop wasting $12 million a day in Afghanistan as such, things would be better. Here in Miami illegals and non citizens flood the system causing massive deficits.

    • Elliot says:

      Yes, it’s not so much the care when you get it, that in my limited experience here, seems to be good, but the cost of getting it, or the costs of things like meds when you get it. Especially when you know some pills are sold to the hospital for a few dollars then are marked up 1000% or more.

  2. DyingNote says:

    Are you back to the States or are you still in England? Did you visit Yorkshire? I could relate to this post so much. I’m not sure if there’s a note of wistfulness here. I myself don’t quite feel that when I look back. But it’s interesting to ponder over your decisions taken on the path to where you are – what if you had taken a different road at a fork, where would that’ve led?

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed this post (as usual) and now that you’ve decided to pare back a bit on the frequency of writing, the anticipation’s even more.

    And I do hope your son’s completely recovered now.

    • Elliot says:

      I’m in England now and will be for the next week. No plans to go back to Yorkshire on this trip, I’m here for a few family things. I was up early this morning and I have a post about the travel and the routines I have, which may go up tomorrow or maybe tuesday.

      This post came about when driving into Hollywood and me thinking, “how did driving into Hollywood on a saturday morning become normal?”.

      Anyhoo, glad you like the posts, and thanks for taking the time to read them. My son is more or less ok now with some minor cough and blocked nose symptoms from time to time, but pretty much back to normal. Thanks for asking.

  3. rtd14 says:

    I understand what you mean about small textile towns. There are several of those on the east coast. Old buildings once housed factory and textile workers. Now some are rennovated into apartment buildings and in the case of one town I wrote about; a new town hall.

    Travel opens up our eyes to the world. When I went to New York City, I fell in love with the people and the atmosphere. The one thing that would be hard for me to stand – besides the great expense – is a NY winter. I use to walk around in flip flops in January in South Carolina.

    I enjoyed this post. The detail was great. The perspective was, also!

    • Elliot says:

      Thanks Rebecca – I don’t think many people today even realise these were big (relatively speaking) industrial towns where the industry has now disappeared. I didn’t mention it on the post, but the place I grew up in has a Facebook group where people post old photos of the place. My parents were looking through one time, and my Dad spotted his dad in a picture outside one of the old factories (that his dad would have been working in at the time). They contacts the poster and got sent a better quality version of the picture. In this way it is good how technology can bring a little of the place back.

      I know what you mean about the “winter”. After a few in Southern California, I’m not keen for a cold one back in the UK.

  4. crubin says:

    How nice to learn some things about your background. It is amazing to see how far we come in this world. Things I’ve done that I never would have thought possible as a young college student wondering if she’d made enough waitressing tips that night to buy groceries. Thanks for helping me “connect” my own dots this morning. Nice post.

    • Elliot says:

      Where I grew up seems a world away. The last time I visited the area, an afternoon of looking round and seeing what was still there was enough for me.

      I can recall another point, what I chose to do in college and why, that literally changed my life. If I had not made that choice, I would not have met the same people and done certain things that have led me to here and now.

  5. Smaktakula says:

    I really enjoyed this. I love hearing about where people are from. There’s something haunting and romantic in a bygone industrial town.
    California über Alles, my friend.

    • Elliot says:

      Thanks – I’m not so keen to go back and visit that area these days as it has changed more since then and not for the better. I’m glad I chose to move away, but I still have a respect for growing up there, and the history of the place.

      • Smaktakula says:

        James Joyce fled Ireland and renounced Catholicism so he could spend the rest of his days writing about those very two subjects.

        Enjoy the Jubilee!

  6. Anne says:

    It’s a big Year for England with Olympics, jubilee and wimbledon. Today on TV they showed a shop in England and they had the royal family made out of Legos in their store window. Crazy. have a fantastic trip.

    Bet your family misses you. Xo

    • Elliot says:

      Being over here (the UK) right now, it surprised me the amount of flags around. Normally the flags only go up for a football tournament. That Lego thing would be cool.

      I’m pretty sure my family misses me, and I miss them as well.

  7. Margarita says:

    Truth usually IS stranger than fiction – and a great source of inspiration for fiction! I, too, like to look back and connect the dots. Anniversaries usually trigger such reverie…glad to hear your son is doing better. Enjoy your travels!

    • Elliot says:

      Yes, those sort of stories where people say “You wouldn’t believe this if it was written in a book. The truth is life isn’t a story, it just contains many stories. Put the wrongs ones together and they don’t make much sense.

  8. jmmcdowell says:

    It’s interesting to look back and see where we are now in relation to where we used to be. I grew up in a town of about 30,000 in Illinois and took rare trips into Chicago. Now my husband and I are in the Maryland suburbs of DC, and a day trip to the Capital is an easy Metro ride away. I never knew I could be happy in such a suburban/urban area. I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now.

    As you wondered when driving to Hollywood became normal, I’ve wondered how giving directions to tourists in DC has become familiar!

    • Elliot says:

      I think that would be my ideal now, to live in somewhere a bit more suburban / urban, but not far enough from a town that it is an ordeal to get there. When I’m in the UK I love travelling into London, but after a day of it, I’m glad I don’t have to face it everyday.

  9. Jeannie says:

    Isn’t it amazing to reflect on how our choices lead to another, then another and then, amazingly, find ourselves somewhere we never imagined. This is one of the things I love about life…you never know what lies around the bend. It’s good that you are happy where you are now…and who knows about the future? Decisions, decisions…

  10. La La says:

    1. I love this. 2. I am hanging out with David Simon’s wife Laura at this very moment. I should probably pay more attention to her, but I am excited and I feel like giggling like a school girl and just thought I would let you know!!

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