Thursday, March 31, 2011

One-Trick Towns

Last night I had the great pleasure of finally meeting one of my most loyal blog readers who I've been chatting with online for years -- Glen from the UK. He's in Chicago this week for work and surprised me with two boxes of Cadbury chocolates (yum!) and a bunch of cool Beatles memorabilia from Liverpool (his hometown) that I'm going to fight my husband over.

As I was excitedly going through all the goodies like a kid on Christmas morning, I was a bit caught off guard when Glen casually mentioned that he pretty much can't stand The Beatles. First I was like, "Huh? Whaa....?" and then I was like, "Boy, shut yo' MOUTH!" Blasphemy! How could he and I remain friends?

But then when he went on to tell me what it's like living in Liverpool, dealing with the constant stream of Beatles tourists, cover bands, festivals, museums, and statues, as well as not being able to remember the last time a day went by when he wasn't asked to take a picture of a Fab Four fan posing in front of some Beatles-related landmark, I began to understand. Seeing as how he lives extremely close to John Lennon's old home and just around the corner from Penny Lane (yes, it does exist), he's learned to adopt a good attitude about it all -- but draws the line when it comes to the band's music. Here's one of the funniest things I learned about his hometown: On Penny Lane there actually is "a barber selling photographs" (well, postcards now)... but the guy doesn't even cut hair anymore -- he's able to make a living off of all the tourists coming in and buying stuff just so they can say they visited the barber in the song. I love it.

These Liverpool stories got me thinking about a daylong drive my husband and I once took up the east coast. After spending a few hours in Salem, Massachusetts, all we could think about was how weird it must be to grow up in a place that was famous for witches and witch trials and hangings and burnings and whatnot. I mean, you cannot escape that stuff in Salem.

When I got home last night I was still a bit sad about Glen's Beatles Hate, but got over it by trying to think of "one-trick towns" (for lack of a better/catchier phrase) in the U.S. I can only imagine that because of the Twilight phenomenon, Forks, Washington, residents must be up to their ears in vampires and werewolf t-shirts and tchotchkes. And then there's Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, known only for its weather-predicting groundhog (and, subsequently, the film Groundhog Day). Glen said that when he visited Bangor, Maine, it was all about Stephen King (it's the horror-writer's hometown) -- his hangouts, his homes, and "where he did this, where he did that."

I know there are a lot of really, really small towns across America that boast "the world's biggest ball of yarn" or other random oddities like that in order to attract tourists (and more importantly, their money). But to me that's not the same as a Liverpool or a Salem or a Punxsutawney that has garnered worldwide recognition or association with ONE SPECIFIC historical or pop culture figure. Can you think of any others?

(And thanks again to Glen for all the Beatles loot -- I know it must have been tough for him to have to act like he was a fan/tourist when buying it!)

- e


Rebecca Dupree said...

Love the story of the guy that doesn't even cut hair anymore! There's a novel in the making!

notWalt said...

While it's not tied to 1 person/figure, how about Nashville's association with country music?

Sammy Jean said...

What about Metropolis, IL? Um, Superman? Hello?! It's actually a pretty cool place!

Caity said...

Roswell is the one that comes to mind for me.