I stayed at the Forest Hill Inn in Hazelton, PA to celebrate Wayne's oldest son, Alexander's graduation from High School!
For a very long time, I have been connected to Hazelton, PA, once by skydiving, forever by my step-brother's daughter, and now forever again, by Wayne's oldest boys. This place reminds me of the feeling I had as a teen when I was anywhere where there seemed to be little to do, everything of interest was miles and miles away and the only thing to do was to get in trouble. Eventually I found connectivity in the Drama Club in my hometown which saved me from the nowhere trap.
Even now when I come here, to Hazelton, I feel the distance, the lack of culture, the oppression, the feeling of a place where coal mining once was the culture that lured people here for work and the hope of any kind of life. Hazelton reminds me of my hometown, Brockton, MA. In Brockton it is the leftover community of a shoe industry that has long since failed, though we do have Marvin Haggler and Rocky Marciano as our famous boxers to brag about. It is a tough town and it doesn't surprise me that we raised and produced famous boxers from our culture or lack of it.
The other thing that dawned on me was that I had been to a football game there in Hazelton and there was a huge sense of community at the games, with the band playing, and the half-time game and all the people who came out to support the game! There were hundreds and hundreds present there at that game I saw and also hundreds there to see their seniors graduate. So the nowhere feeling I experience may not be nowhere for others but somewhere dear and full of love and community. I also remember this from my hometown football games. Our High School was the culture of our community. We had over 5,000 students back in my time and because of the size we had a lot of funding. Our sport teams were out of this world and the Drama Department was 200 strong. There was money for good ball games and money for good plays and musicals.
For me there has always been a yearning to grow and move beyond 'here,' wherever here is, here being Hazelton, PA or Brockton, MA. I did that with my home town. As soon as I could leave, I did and I didn't really look back. I often feel that if I stay 'here' too long, then 'here' turns into nowhere and somewhere else would be better, anywhere else. The few times I did go back to my hometown, I felt that if I had to stay, I would be a failure somehow. I wonder why people stayed there even after college. I have moved 16 times since I was 22 years old, because I wanted to. Some of my favorite times have been when I had all of my stuff in a truck and was camping from place to place, never staying in a building.
When I stay in a hotel, such as the Forest Hill Inn, I start to look at the stained ceiling tiles, the nicked up tub, the unmoved lawn, and the dingy carpet, I feel a good sense of being away from my 'nowhere' with my own job and daily duties, my dishes, laundry, and countless things to do and I appreciate the simplicity of someone else's nowhere or perhaps 'elsewhere.' But I feel also the wear and tear of the nowhere place on someone else's life, hopes and dreams as I feel relief from my own nowhere. I wonder how they came to be attached to the place, and if they are happy there and what dreams of elsewhere they may have, if any. Do they feel the way I felt when I lived in Brockton? If so, do they want to move? Do they want to find some kind of new freedom? Or are they stuck somehow? Or are they happy there? Are they staying out of duty or contentedness?
One man's trash is another man's treasure. This is something I believe in, especially as someone who really only shops in second hand stores. I guess we can also say that one man's nowhere is another man's somewhere. My Dad loves his home in Brockton, MA and I know the boys love their friends and their community in Hazelton and that is where they feel connected. I feel that I seem to be creating a collection of nowhere's every where I live and that every now and again I have to rip the rug out from underneath my life, and set it all up again elsewhere.
Heidi K. Eklund is the owner of Hudson Valley Casting and has been in the entertainment business for over 30 years.