In My Little Town

“A fellow of mediocre talent will remain a mediocrity, whether he travels or not; but one of superior talent (which without impiety I cannot deny that I possess) will go to seed if he always remains in the same place.” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Pitman, New Jersey, small town, growing up, childhood

Main Street, Pitman (Jesse Bair/South Jersey Times)

I couldn’t wait to leave my little town. Pitman, NJ. Where everyone knew your name, your business (and your parents’), where you lived, how you lived, and who your best friends were, or were not.

By my junior year in high school, I began collecting college brochures from the guidance counselor’s office: North Carolina, Vermont, Florida, even Ohio sounded romantic and far away from southern New Jersey.But my parents encouraged me to look at colleges less than five hours away. So I shortened the list to New York,Pitman, NJ, small town, family, friends Pennsylvania, Northern New Jersey (a completely different state from Southern NJ), and Virginia.

I left home for college at 18 and never looked back, so happy to be far from the claustrophobic closeness of the Wilsons and the Robbins, the Stephens and the Jones, the Murphys and the Johnsons.

Strangers! I wanted to find strangers in a strange land.

Forty years later, I smile at how far I’ve come.

Tiburon, CA, small town, friends, family

Main Street, Tiburon

I live, purposely, in a small town where everyone knows your name. My heart leaps when I enter the post office and run into John, a colleague and one of my writing students, and then Shirley, wife of a Board member from work.

After acquiring my stamps from Keith, our friendly postal clerk, I run across the street to the grocery store and wave to Dave, our one-time realtor, while listening to Phil, head of the seafood department, explain the merits of Pacific Snapper over Alaskan Cod.

I blush at the checkout counter when Derek, our accountant, points out the fresh cupcakes in my basket, and then, when racing out the door, I pet Molly, our former neighbor’s 10-year-old lab,

On my way to get gas, I note the three traffic lights in our small town while passing the elementary school that my 30-something childrenTiburon, California, small town, family, friends attended oh so many years ago. Oh, look at the lupine bush by the playground that I’ve watched grow up from a tiny sapling when it was planted along the Bay years ago.

Ah yes, I’ve come so far from the mediocrity of living in my small childhood town.

I’ve grown up to learn that the “ordinariness” that sometimes signals mediocrity can actually be another word for comfort, friendship, security, and love.

Mozart – perhaps you got it all wrong.

“It Never Rains in California, but It Pours, Man It Pours” – A Writer’s Tale

Books Inc., book store, author reading, rain, trafficOne of my stories was published in an award-winning book, yet I didn’t attend my reading debut in a California bookstore on a wet Friday November evening.

Sad, but true.

Author Lynn Henriksen had chosen to include my story, “Traveling to the Ocean” in her book TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character and Spirit (  A long title for a smart, emotional guide to writing memoir.TellTale Souls: Writing Mother Memoir

Lynn’s book helps writers of any level access memory and tell true tales in just a few pages. And in each chapter, she adds poignant mother/daughter (or son) stories written by selected contributors.

My story was one of those, in the section entitled “Using Descriptive Imagery.” How exciting is that? And then, to top it off, Lynn asked me to join her and some of the other writers to read at the Catching Spirits Event at Books Inc. in Alameda, a book store known as “The West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller.” (

So did I send the news to my 500 closest friends?


Did I proclaim my publishing success on Twitter and Facebook?

Well, yes, but just two hours before the event began. I may be a writer, and I may want readers, but I’m still shy about my ‘stuff’ (yes, my fingers shake every week before I hit ‘post’ on WordPress), and I didn’t want people to brave the highways and byways of the East Bay just to listen to little ole me read a story.

I was so glad of that decision when my guy and I left our home an hour and a half before the event. Normally a 45-minute ride, we factored in that (a) we’d be driving in Friday evening commute traffic and (b) the rain was falling hard enough to make my hair frizz, all the better that I’d not encouraged family and friends to attend.

An hour later, we were still in bumper-to-bumper, rain-soaked, slick streets racing (about 3 minutes per hour) toward our destination. Since I tend to motion sickness, I opened the window every so often, allowing sprays of spittle-like moisture to soak my face and my hoped-for straight hair, which now resembled an SOS pad.

7 p.m. The event was beginning, I was supposed to be the first reader, and yet my man and I were still enmeshed in a sea of moving metal bodies. My head throbbed in motion distress, and my stomach thanked me for not eating anything.

Finally, we reached the city of Alameda, sighing that our journey was almost at an end. I texted Lynn to not give up on me. As we got closer to the treasure – the bookstore – I searched desperately for a parking place, seeing nothing but parked cars on the metered spaces and red brake lights in the dark drear night.

We followed directions for a parking garage, two blocks away, and followed a line of similarly wandering souls. Turning into the small garage opening, we drove UP, and around, UP, and around, UP and around, until my head pounded in protest.

“Must be space at the top,” I murmured hoarsely to my man, “look at all the cars coming down the opposite way.”

Well, four more times we went UP, and around, UP and around, until we reached the top, the sky, and not one open space. All those cars we passed going the opposite way? They’d had no luck either. What kind of garage has no sign that says: FULL?

Didn’t matter. At that point in time, my body was full of motion sickness. I couldn’t walk, much less talk or smile or hold a book for sale.

“Take me home!” I croaked.

The rain stopped for our drive back. So did the horrible traffic. In fact, we soared home, and I crawled into bed like a sick child.

But stuck in my head, all night long, was the 1980s tune, “It never rains in California, But it pours, man it pours.”

[ Lyrics from: ]Songwriters: HAMMOND, ALBERT/HAZLEWOOD, MIKE

Got on board a westbound seven forty-seven
Didn’t think before deciding what to do
Ooh, that talk of opportunities, TV breaks and movies
Rang true, sure rang true …

Seems it never rains in southern California
Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours

I’m out of work, I’m out of my head
Out of self respect, I’m out of bread
I’m underloved, I’m underfed, I wanna go home
It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours