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John Mellencamp was right

americangothic.jpgI live in a small town. The population is around 50,000 but I swear they’re counting cows and sheep. Great Falls, Montana is basically a big farm town that feels like a much smaller place. And I like that. I’ve lived all over the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, but I enjoy being off the radar. Here’s why:

1) We have one homeless man in Great Falls. His name is Larry. He lives on the street by choice, although he worked as an aircraft mechanic before he stopped taking his meds. Now he pushes a shopping cart around that looks like a helicopter. Every winter the downtown merchants get together to buy him a new sleeping bag and a snowmobile suit. And when it’s really cold, an anonymous donor pays for a motel for Larry.

2) My kids walk to school. They meet their friends on the corner and walk en masse. I’m sure a child molester could approach them. But twelve nine-year olds would savagely stab him to death with mechanical pencils.

3) People here are interesting to me. I think it’s because they have lives. A neighbor’s idea of a vacation was a weeklong horseback/camping trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness with her hubby. This was an 80-mile trek where you hang your food in the trees to avoid grizzly bears. Did I mention that my neighbor is 68?

4) I can be on the Missouri River with my fly rod in fifteen minutes. I can be in Glacier National Park in less time than my commute was in Seattle. Or head down to Yellowstone. It’s a different world in the wintertime.

5) I have time to read. Time to write. And time to blog.

The only downside is that it’s hard to find good sushi. Steak, we got. Tako poke? Nada.

Where do you live? Why do you live there? What do you like best about it? And is it reflected in your work?

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Reader Comments (12)

Great, great, great post, Jamie.

In fact, I want to explore it myself, because I live in Boston, but all my writing takes place in central New York, where I grew up.

Maybe my characters are telling me to move home.

February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Hurtubise
Very Freudian. You want to move home and are secretly in love with your mother.

It seems like all of my writing has a connection to where I live, or where I grew up as well. My current WIP starts out in my old Seattle-based stomping grounds.
February 24, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie
I live in Phoenix now. I like it because it is one big hotbed of contradictions. Where else can you walk into a supermarket and be told to leave your firearms at the courtesy counter?

I had this picture of a bunch of homeys handing in their pieces while they shopped for necessities, then picking them up again, shoving them back under hats and into their baggie pants.

Alas, Phoenix has changed dramatically in the time I've lived there. The firearms sign is gone. So is the sign in front of a store that called itself 'Guns and Postage'.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm.g. tarquini
Great Post Jamie. So far all my books have taken place where I live (the vacinity of Pittsburgh or MD where I lived out of college). Like you, I love people, the intricacies that create who they are. And who they are is very tied to where they live. Even if they're stuck somewhere they don't want to be.

Why do I live in Oakmont now? It has a "town" feel that reminds me of the city--my favorite place to live. Having kids moved us to the burbs...the homeless guys taking shelter under our porch seemed less okay once I was hauling infants in and out of the house every day.
Your town seems awesome. Love the image of your son walking to school with a pack of friends. There's a novel in that, right?
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkathie
M.G.--I love Phoenix. Especially this time of year! I've only been down there a few times, but WOW, is that place growing. I can relate to the gun thing. At the airports in Montana you just get used to seeing all the gun cases coming down the luggage carousel.

Kathie--I'm guessing we all write about what we know and that has a lot to do with where we live. Great Falls is a nice town, in a 70’s time-warp kind of way. I play on a softball team called "The Mullets"–-which worried us a bit when some of our opponents were still sporting that lovely hairstyle.
February 24, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie
I live in a suburb of Dallas. I also lived in Raleigh,NC. Raleigh was wonderful because it's a city that feel like a town. And you can't beat the trees and the access to mountains and the beach. It also has four seasons, unlike Texas. That said, I was restless the entire time I lived there. There's just something about Texas that's home to me. I haven't set any stories here, but I am sure I will. It just needs to be the right story.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJaye Wells
Your town sounds wonderful! I live in a hard-drinking, blue-collar, mid-sized city--actually, it's only slightly larger than Great Falls. I attended college here, and although I didn't plan to, I ended up landing a job locally when I graduated. There isn't much culture or nature to speak of (our highest geographical point is the town's "garbage hill"), but the cost of living is very reasonable.

My novel actually covers a cross country roadtrip, so my current city of residence doesn't make an appearance. I'm going to create a similar fictional town in the next book, however. :)
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJess
I would love to live in a place like yours, Jamie. But for now, I settle for the large metro area of LA. Sure, I run into celebs here and there, there are at least 3 GREAT sushi places within a 5 mile radius, but I long for the quiet solitude of a small, unknown town somewhere nowhere, ya know?

Most my stories are inspired by my parents childhood, my past in Texas, or my visits to Hawaii. I like to write what I know.
February 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdana
I get to LA twice a year to meet with clients, and I love it down there. But of course, I'm always happy to get back home. If I ever do the big city thing again, it would be back in Hawaii. I left a part of me there. And a few unpaid parking tickets.

February 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie ford
My town isn't half as interesting as yours. All my neighbors are either drones or pod people and nobody socializes. What would be the point? LOL!

February 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershesawriter
I too live 15 minutes from the Missouri River! I wouldn't eat a fish that came out of it, though. Not if you saw the water.
March 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRoy
LOL. I can relate Roy. I was fishing out in the middle of the Missouri in waist-deep water and dead cow floated by!

It's been catch and release ever since.

March 5, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie

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