Places I Wish I’d Grown Up

Being spat out into this world you don’t have much choice as to where you land. Some people luck out, and get to live out their teenage days beneath sunshine and blue skies, while the rest of us bide our time between holidays, surrounded by grey clouds, misery, and Jeremy Kyle. For us sad saps escapism is our only option and we often choose to live vicariously through the lives of the characters in our favourite films, placing ourselves in their geographical locations and imagining a better life for ourselves. Or we eat ourselves to death with food we buy at Iceland.

Here are some places I wish I’d grown up:

Wilmington, North Carolina

I don’t know much about Wilmington North Carolina – it always makes me think of that song ‘Oh Carolina’ by Shaggy. Then I get sidetracked and start wondering about how he makes his voice go so low, and whether it’s like that in real life, etc etc etc. Yeah, so that pretty much concludes my knowledge of Carolina. However for this piece I obviously had to do ‘research’ so it ‘made sense’ and wasn’t all about Shaggy, so I can tell you now that North Carolina is situated, ironically, in the south of the USA.

Wilmington is a pretty big city which sits on the Cape Fear River, which has to be one of the best rivers in the world, even though its name reminds me of those lame No Fear T-shirts people used to wear in the 90’s. The ones with slogans like ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space’. Gross.

The most important fact about Wilmington is that it’s where numerous incredible films were produced. So if I’d grown up here I probably would have disappeared into the sewers to find some mutant turtles and returned some weird rat/human hybrid, worked at a record store with a slutty Renee Zellweger and shaved my head, seen Brandon Lee get shot dead by accident and made friends with Bruce Lee at the funeral, found a human ear on my way home and got off with Isabella Rosselini, and totally become best friends with a melodramatic Joshua Jackson and Katy Holmes before she was taken over by the robot known in public as Tom Cruise.

Now that would have been a childhood.

Shermer, Illinois

Jay said it best in ‘Dogma’:

“’Sixteen Candles’, ‘Breakfast Club’, ‘Weird Science’…All these movies take place in a small town called Shermer, Illinois, where all the honies are top-shelf, but all the dudes are whiny pussies. Except for Judd Nelson, he was fuckin’ harsh. But best of all, there was no one dealin’. Then it hits me: we could live like fat rats if we were the blunt connection in Shermer. But you know what the fuck we found out when we got there? There is no Shermer, Illinois. Movies are fuckin’ bullshit.”

But it doesn’t matter that this place is fictional, because if we’ve learnt anything from A-Ha videos, it’s that it is possible to be dragged into the TV and live your life in a story. So that’s fine. I can live in Shermer if I want. I can have red hair and still pull off wearing pink, I can have a best friend called Ducky with a huge quiff, tube socks and penchant for lip-synching to Otis Redding, I can create a dream woman using an Amstrad and copies of ‘Playboy’, I can stick it to the man even while confined in detention, I can even put a brick on the accelerator of my father’s Porsche and watch it crash through his floor to ceiling glass window. Or I could just be that girl on the bus with the neck brace and frizzy hair. Yeah, I’d probably be her.

The only probably with living somewhere fictional is that you’d be stuck having to relive different scenes over and over again, with no ability to change anything or make the story progress, and no chance to say anything other than what’s in the script. But I guess in many ways life is completely out of our control and we ARE nothing more than actors in our own films. So at least this way you’d know there was going to be a happy ending.

Wow. Deep.

Sherman Oaks, California

Not only is Sherman Oaks the location of the hospital where Richard Pryor was cared for after setting himself on fire while freebasing cocaine, it’s also home to Van Nuys High School. Kids who attend Van Nuys High are pretty amazing themselves – its real life alumni include Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford and that woman who fell in love with a cartoon cat, Paula Abdul.

However, it’s also the type of high school where students have evil cars that can completely alter the way their driver behaves, crushing multiple students to death, running down some bully called Buddy, and ultimately *SPOILER ALERT* fatally impaling its owner on a shard of glass (the film ‘Christine’. It’s amazing. You have to see it. It totally puts Herbie to shame).

You may also find yourself fighting vampires, since your school just happens to be located above the Hellmouth, or hanging out with Kid ‘n Play as they desperately try to teach each other how to impersonate a hip-hop mogul and a posh boy respectively – a weird twist on the ‘Prince and the Pauper’/ Lindsay Lohan in ‘Parent Trap’ franchise. Or you might find yourself side by side with The Ramones as they’re made honorary students for no logical reason whatsoever. More likely though, you’d get pregnant accidentally by some sleezy douchebag, while your brother was caught doing something untoward to himself in the toilet after seeing your best friend in a red bikini. Oh, and Sean Penn would be there as a pizza-obsessed surfing burnout.

‘Grease’ was also filmed here. You remember ‘Grease’ right? Cool.

Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Living in Grosse Pointe in the 1980’s you would have spent most days listening to the Clash in your quiet suburban house, taking your hot babe girlfriend (in the shape of Minnie Driver) to the diner, then disappearing mysteriously on the night of Senior prom never to be seen again for ten years. I mean, that’s pretty exciting in itself. So if you returned home ten years later, a moody and mysterious trained killer with a quick wit and long black trenchcoat, you’d probably find it pretty easy to get the girl back. Well, more easily than if you mooched into town on a Vespa, wearing a corduroy suit and a comb over, revealing you were a failed accountant who’d moved to Delaware because they had better drugs for your panic attacks, “But you still love me right? Right?!”  Sadly if I’d grown up in Grosse Pointe I would probably have been the guy with an asthma inhaler, not John Cusack (Martin Q.Blank) with an AK.

Or maybe I would have been a skinny blonde like my other four sisters, trapped in our house by our backward and controlling mother (Kathleen Turner) who never let us go to prom, and always dressed us in her version of the Von Trapp ‘I make clothes for my children from floral curtains’ look. If so I probably would have gone boy-crazy for some lanky youth with an ill-fitting bowl-cut wig, started inviting pizza delivery boys on the roof, or just thrown myself out the window. Or stuck my head in the oven, or gassed myself in the garage, or hung myself, or swallowed a fistful of sleeping pills. Take your pick.

FACT: It’s way harder to be a girl in Grosse Pointe than it is to be a boy.

One Response to “Places I Wish I’d Grown Up”
  1. niamh says:

    Yes! This is so true, Brat Pack movies alway made me want to grow up in Shermer Illinois instead of the UK.

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