Song on Repeat: “Hometown Glory” by Adele

 

This song speaks to me on so many levels. First, musically. Listen to the way Adele phrases each line, each word, parts of each word. Listen to the combination of the piano and strings, how it enhances and not overwhelms Adele’s amazing voice. Feel the emotion of the song. Consider the lyrics, bring up old memories of way back when; they’re probably still quite vivid, as if they didn’t happen all that long ago.

According to my facebook profile, my hometown is Jacksonville, Florida, and my current city is New York, New York. I tell people I’m from Jacksonville because not very many would recognize the town of Middleburg, which I hear has turned into quite the suburb. Orange Park has spilled over into the little town where I grew up. It now has a fancy Publix and a Home Depot and a Super Wal-Mart. Housing subdivisions are everywhere, especially down the road where I lived my senior year of high school. Old Jennings Road. Traffic is ridiculous on all arteries leading to and from Blanding Boulevard and Branan Field Road. It has developed into your run-of-the-mill, organized, cookie-cutter chaos. I’ve been back to that part of town, driving around, seeing how Middleburg now very directly connects to Jacksonville, so Jacksonville is also overflowing into my little Middleburg without filtering through Orange Park. The sign indicating the town limit reads in large letters, “MIDDLEBURG,” then in smaller letters below it, “Unincorporated.” That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

It would seem almost everything about my childhood, at least the last eight years of it, has been corrupted. Maybe not. If you drive further south and west, the landscape looks just about the same. Head west on State Road 218 and cross Mimosa Road and you’ll see the same dirt roads and mobile homes and less crowded land. You’ll see untended weeds and stray dogs and horse stalls and chicken coops. You’ll see my junior high school, and if you drive far enough, my elementary school. One noticeable change is a big, obnoxious gas station at Mallard Road.

Once, probably five years ago on a home visit (which had become Jacksonville), I drove to Middleburg. I turned north on Mimosa Road for a few miles, then west on Johns Cemetery Road, which becomes Plankton Avenue. The grass was higher. The brush was thicker. The acre plot of land where I lived from 1987 to 1993 had grown over with indigenous foliage, as well as a bunch of rubbish. The neighboring plots looked very much the same. The Roenisches lived next to me. Becky Fraser lived over on Foxtail Avenue, maybe a mile away. Her cousin, Stephanie Cardone, lived closer, on the corner of Johns Cemetery and Parsley. Jackie Anderson and Lynn Reed lived on Parsley. Mike and Trent McKay lived on Kay Road.

These friends don’t live there anymore. My generation, my peers. That realm – the era, the location – was carved out specifically for that part of my childhood, and no more. I watched in my rear view mirror the cloud of dust the car kicked up as I made my way back to the paved road. This was a part of town everyone shrugged off, ignored, abandoned; purpose served. And that part of town seems perfectly okay with it. Unincorporated, it is.

Seems I needed to revisit, if not geographically, then at least in my mind. Turns out I have similar thoughts here. Those memories of way back when we keep rather close to the surface. We don’t really bury them, after all.

I’ve been walking in the same way as I did
And missing out the cracks in the pavement
And tutting my heel and strutting my feet
“Is there anything I can do for you dear? Is there anyone I could call?
No, and thank you, please madam, I ain’t lost, just wandering”

Round my hometown, memories are fresh
Round my hometown, ooh, the people I’ve met
Are the wonders of my world, are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of this world, are the wonders and now

I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque
I love it to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades
I like it in the city when two worlds collide
You get the people and the government
Everybody taking different sides

Shows that we ain’t gonna stand [ – ]
Shows that we are united
Shows that we ain’t gonna take it
Shows that we ain’t gonna stand [ – ]
Shows that we are united

Round my hometown, memories are fresh
Round my hometown, ooh, the people I’ve met

Are the wonders of my world, are the wonders of my world
Are the wonders of this world, are the wonders of my world
Of my world, yeah, of my world, of my world, yeah