Thinking about living in a city? Read this first!

Ever wish someone would give you a real account of a city before you move there. Having lived all over the US over the last 16 years, I know everyone SHOULD! People often only think about the positives when considering living in a city or obvious negatives, like safety or price… no one tells you how buying groceries every week is going to be a giant pain in your ass or how you’d rather stab yourself in the eye with a spoon than haul your laundry across town on public transit.

Before we get a lot of hate mail, we love living here, but this list is some of the things people don’t consider prior to converting to city life. 

livinginboston

We were swayed when we decided on Boston as the next place we call home. Dr Hops and I are both scientists, and between biotech, universities, pharma, and hospitals, there are lots of science opportunities here… Which is why we moved. We checked all the obvious things, like safety of the different neighborhoods, general price differences, average commute times [lies!] and settled on where we live now.

YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE 

Certain areas might as well be in Narnia. All the guides I read and the information my company gave me touted the unique vibe every area in this small city had. I doubted it because lets be honest, Boston’s not that big but this is TOTALLY TRUE. You know why? It’s almost impossible to get to some areas of the city depending on where you’re coming from (unless you want to spend 60+ minutes going 3-4 miles). A friend lives across the city and it takes her an HOUR to get to my house. Another friend lives in a different neighborhood and there is NO EASY WAY TO GET THERE.

That’s not true, you say! There are always buses. HA! Yes, there are buses as well as an underground and overground tram system here in Boston. The thing no one tells you is that none of the trains or buses are really on time. So if you have more than one connection you’re pretty much screwed and can EASILY add on 20 minutes to whatever lies Google has told you. To make it to the friend above’s house, we have two exchanges by bus and train and the waits associated with each gets us close enough to walk, or we have to go all the way to the common and get on a T that goes near her.

bostontraffic

You then say, “but once you’re on the train you’ll definitely get there.” …. Haha.. Sorry… Give me a minute… Ahh, that was great.. NOPE! The trains here can “become an express” .. while you’re on them. I have NEVER been on a train headed to North Station and actually made it there. I think this is more my personal bad luck with trains, than a definitive rule, but it’s still annoying. Every time the train “becomes an express” or goes out of service at Park St and I either have to wait for another train, or walk.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like living here. Boston’s awesome, but I wish someone would have told me some of these things so I could consider them when someone else is moving our crap (i.e. my company and not us and Brewdog on a weekend).

YOU MIGHT STARVE, SO THINK AHEAD

This is something you seriously need to consider. A coworker is moving because they have a market not that far from his house but it’s PAST his house so when he needs to pick up one or two things after a long day in lab he has to walk 10-15 min past his house, shop, wait in line forever, and walk 10-15 minutes home. This adds over an hour on to an already long day. You know how this ends? You NEVER end up doing it.

If you do actually make it to the store, you have to prioritize heavy items, because if you’re coming from work, you’re probably stuck carrying anything you purchase back to your apartment. This means more trips to the store, and if you didn’t consider the additional time as in the example above, it’s a few more hours a week than you would have budgeted for this simple task. Some people I know use a delivery service simply because of the amount of time this would take up. They have all the heavy items that aren’t dependent on freshness delivered and then buy fresh fruits and veggies themselves. Those items are light/ easy to carry, which makes the scenario above easier to deal with.

TIMING OF TRAINS & BUSES

Sometimes I have very early morning experiments, meaning I need to get to lab prior to 6AM or even 5AM in some cases. On these days I either bike (more about that later), or if it’s the later of the two times, I take the train.. or uber if it’s too early for the train but horrible weather.

MBTA
MBTA examples thanks to Wiki. Note one train is above ground and driving with traffic. 

Keep in mind if your schedule is variable, that public transit might not run as early as you need to get to work, or as frequently as you need to commute between two locations (like school and work). Also, note that local sports events and fundraisers can drastically change commuting times. For us it’s Red Sox games and the Boston Marathon. Most of my building takes a vacation day on Marathon Monday because it’s horrible getting to downtown. A friend tried it last year, not wanting to waste the vacation day, and it took her 3 hours to get home.

HOW DRIVING IS SOMETHING OUT OF A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL

Now I know what you’re thinking, “just drive to get groceries.” That is confounded by the most confusing intersections I’ve ever seen in a city, and a lack of parking. This past winter a labmate of my husband decided to drive to lab on the weekend for a quick experiment. Public transportation would have taken her about 40-45 minutes, but once she got there she realized there was no where to park. Anywhere. It was winter an the snow hadn’t been cleared, so the spots that would have normally been free are now full of snow. So she drove all the way across town and back to her apartment, parked her car, and took the T back to lab.

This isn’t that Boston specific, normally if you have a city that’s very pedestrian friendly, it’s a nightmare for drivers.

The additional fees for parking your car is also something we hadn’t really anticipated. Some places offer a free spot (I think this is a myth as no one I know has this, but everyone says they knew someone once that did), but for most places that offer a single spot per apartment, you pay an additional fee per month. In a city like Boston, that fee can be >$300/month.

I have off street parking, but if you rely on resident parking you have to keep up with the cleaning schedule for the neighborhood. I have a friend who has a lot of trouble with this and gets her car towed all the time because of parking on the wrong side of the road, or since she never uses her car through the week, she simply forgets which day they are supposed to come through to clean the street.

BIKING

winterbikingboston
Image from Fox 15 news via google search. 

Biking in most of Boston isn’t actually that bad. There are dedicated bike paths around the city, but the problem is most people use this as additional space while driving.The winter weather that takes up a large portion of the year also compounds this. The biggest challenge for me, so far, is crossing busy intersections with 5+ streets meeting. I typically walk my bike through the crosswalks around these areas because I’ve seen too many people get hit (no one knows who’s turn it is, or think they can take the “slight right” on red without looking).

DOG FRIENDLY

This means different things to different people, but for me, it’s having the services that a dog needs (vet, grooming, etc.) readily available in an area that has housing that allows pets. For the most part, Boston is very dog friendly. Your pet, if well behaved on a leash, and not peak hours, can ride the train and the bus with you. Most parks allow on-leash dogs, and they have a special program that makes many of the parks around the area “off leash dog parks” during certain hours of the day (if you pay a small fee).

The hardest part of “dog friendly” is getting Brewdog to appointments (in all weather). As I mentioned, public transit isn’t super reliable for getting to or from a location at a specified time, so I normally had a lot of buffer time. I can walk her to her appointment, but that limits the number of places she can go drastically. I could drive her, but most vet offices I’ve seen don’t have dedicated lots, so if her appointment is during peak hours in a neighborhood with “resident only” parking it makes it much more complicated. This was a major hassle when pet sitting a friend’s cat, who also had to go to the vet.

This isn’t that big of a deal in warmer months and was obviously something we considered prior to moving in our current apartment, but she needed to get in emergently this past winter and couldn’t walk that far in the bitter cold, so we had to carry her. We had assumed it wouldn’t be that hard to park in winter months, but mounds of snow all over the city definitely make commuting anywhere by car even harder than normal.

Because our commute can be variable, we end up having a walker come and take care of Brewdog in the middle of the day. It gets her a little more exercise and allows us not to worry if the T is running late (again). The only downfall is that it’s pretty expensive to keep up 5 walks a week and a last minute walk because of a delay at work or because of transit is even more expensive than the normal rate.

(I had a horrible experience with my first walking service in Boston, which I might blog about another day)

FINAL VIEW ON CITY LIVING

Overall, I’m very happy with our move. Boston has been great! I do wish I knew a few of the things above, or had thought them out a little better. We really do like it here though. There are always activities around the city, and pretty much everything outdoors is dog friendly. There is something for everyone, and the people here are very friendly. I’ve never felt unsafe walking alone or at night.

 

 

Bookstores and Breweries of Portsmouth NH

BestBookstoresofPortsmouthNH

In my attempt to forget April ever happened, the husband and I decided to take a day trip to the nearby town of Portsmouth New Hampshire, as a way to start May off on the right foot. “The right foot” for us, pretty much involves new books and beer because as my favorite Lannister put it, “It’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”

Park in the garage in the center of town for easy access to pretty much the entire town. It was $15 for the entire day, and was so conveniently located that we could shop and then drop stuff off at the car when walking to the next location. Get there early though, it was full by 1PM.

SHEAFE STREET BOOKS
29 Sheafe Street, Portsmouth NH

sheafestreetbooks_outside_portsmouthNH
Taken from their Facebook page as I was so caught up in browsing I forgot to take one!

This was by far my favorite stop while in Portsmouth. The owner was extremely nice and had a little of everything. Pretty much every available surface in the small store is covered with piles of books–most shelves had two rows per shelf. Don’t let that discourage you though! The owner is very knowledgeable and I asked for a few random specific titles and he walked to the shelf, moved a group of books and pulled it out first try. This on it’s own wouldn’t be impressive, but he did this at least 4 more times in my quest for hard to find paperbacks. Not only that, but for one of the harder to find scifi titles, he even knew the EDITIONS he had in stock!

sheafestreetbooks_portsmouthNH
Sheafe Street Books, Portsmouth NH

There were a few small chairs inside, as you can see from the second photo. There is also a small “bargain” shelf outside the front steps. Hard to find editions collectible are between $20-30, and most books fall in the $4-8 range.

This isn’t a store where you’ll have a huge haul of $1 finds, but the experience chatting with the owner, and the wide selection crammed into the small space makes it a place you’ll want to come back to.

BOOK AND BAR
40 Pleasant St, Portsmouth NH

bookandbarportsmouthnh

This was my second favorite literary location and probably would be my favorite place to just hang out and read or meet friends for board games. Several people had card games going, others were writing and some were passing the time with a drink like we were. We actually went here twice, the first time to check out the books and the second time to have a drink and kill some time before our dinner reservation.

bookandbar2

They have a good selection of used books but you really would go here for the atmosphere. Everyone there was in a good mood and tried to make room for the ever growing crowd. The beer selection was really good and you’re sure to find SOMETHING you like on tap or in bottles/cans. They have a rotating tap and the cheapest I’ve EVER seen Downeast Cider–only $3.75 per can! For those that don’t like beer or cider, they also have a short wine selection and a couple of mixed drinks to choose from.

booksandbeerportsmouthnh
My addition to the typed messages posted near the bar.

The food looked great, though we didn’t have any. Dr Hops did have tea and I had a homemade hot chocolate– both were great. They have a pretty large selection of teas, all sourced from two NH tea shops.

No free wifi on the weekends, I’m assuming because they were pretty packed when we came back late in the afternoon on Saturday. Live music from New England and New York based bands.  In the corner where the photo is taken there is a cluster of soft upholstered chairs and sofas, around a coffee table that just SCREAMS for a game of Agricola.

RIVERRUN BOOSTORE
142 Fleet St, Portsmouth NH

riverrunbookstoreportsmouthnh
Photo from the Riverrun website

This was the only location that had both new and used books. It’s roughly the size of Book and Bar, but is the only venue that had signed copies of books from local authors. They also have a pretty extensive meet and greet list, so it looks like they have readings and signings pretty frequently.

The “Staff Picks” wall was also interesting and highlighted a variety of genres.

Only one woman was working when I stopped by and she didn’t seem to actually know that much about the store or the books it contained. There were only a few people in the store and I wasn’t greeted. She did attempt to answer a question from another customer while I was browsing and couldn’t. She wasn’t rude, it was more “flustered” and the man she was attempting to help and he just left while she was still talking “at” him.

I was a little surprised, because this bookstore had the highest rating out of the three that I visited. My go to section is science fiction and my husband asked where it was located, and the woman replied, “on the wall.” … which was pretty obvious because all of the open wall space was lined with shelves… At least she eliminated that it wasn’t on one of the tables scattered around the room. I chalk this up to a poor experience with a customer prior to my coming in the store.

They have bargain bins under the front table, where you can pick up a book for a couple of dollars. Which I rummaged through a bit but was so turned off by the way I was treated while in the store, I really just quickly scanned the shelves and bins and then decided my money was better spent elsewhere.

I’ll give them another shot the next time I’m in town (and will update this post accordingly), because everyone has off days and who knows what happened with previous customers, but it won’t be first on my list of places to visit.

 

EARTH EAGLE BREWINGS
165 High Street, Portsmouth NH

eartheaglebrewings

If you took my advice and parked in the garage, this is only about a 3 minute walk from your car, so it makes putting the beer you’ll buy SO much easier to put away. The staff was extremely friendly, and while we didn’t order food, all the people around us did and it looked great!

The place is pretty small so the earlier you get there the easier it will be to get a table. We ended up in a booth and they opened up the large windows that line the back of the room making it an indoor/outdoor experience. The walls are lined with turkey themed art.

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The flight Dr Hops selected, which you can tell how much he liked it as one is already missing

No brew tour, unfortunately, but still a great experience. Dr Hops picked up a 64 oz growler for somewhere around $25, and he’s already lamenting that it’s gone. Dr Hops substituted “Gold Digger” for “Funky Monk” as he’s not a huge fan of Kolsch style beer outside of a few we had in Cologne, Germany. We ended up taking the Funky Monk home with us to share with friends and everyone loved it!

If you want something a little different, or just don’t like beer, they also offer a wide selection of gruits. For the record, they totally missed a naming opportunity on that one, “I am gruit” would have been an awesome name!

We both wished we had a little extra time to spend here and will definitely stop by again on our next trip to Portsmouth.

PORTSMOUTH BREWING
56 Market St, Portsmouth NH

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A quick photo of the beer list from our trip. It evidently changes frequently.

This was our last book and beer themed stop prior to dinner reservations and we ended up cutting it short. There was a two hour wait for the brewery tour, which we ended up skipping out on because of the poor experience we had in the restaurant. The next time we go we’re going to aim for an earlier time of day as when we went by earlier in the day it was a different experience.

When we walked in it was pretty busy and we were told there would be a 20 minute wait, which was expected considering the time of day. We gave them a cell number so they could text when it was our turn, and took a stroll through the surrounding shops. The first major problem was the service. They seemed incredibly confused and we had two different people attempt to take our order. We got a small appetizer as well as drinks but it took FOREVER to get both. By that time we were both out of water and after waiting so long for the first drink, we decided to cap it at one and get on our way. Because of where we live, Dr Hops has had a large number of the beers offered, but I highly recommend the North Country Cider. I had the “Sugar Shack” (it was great!) which is described as follows:

Sugar Shack: A semi-dry cider flavored with extra dark amber maple syrup, fresh-pressed ginger, and a touch of black walnut. We describe it as a “party in you’re mouth”. The perfect way to celebrate the arrival of spring. New Hampshire and Maine grown apples. 5% ABV (Spring Seasonal)

On the positive side, the restaurant was very family friendly… Which was also a bad thing. We were in a back room and every table around us had multiple small children… none of whom were happy about being there. This isn’t the restaurant’s fault, but it just made the already painfully slow service even harder to endure.

OVERALL

It was a great day trip, and is about an hour drive from Boston. We’ll definitely make another trip before the end of the summer. If you have recommendations on additional things to do or shops I’ve missed please let me know!

A southerner’s review of “Deep South” by Paul Theroux

deepsouthpaultherouxsouthernbookreview

Let me start this review with my bias: I spent birth to the age of 25 living in various southern states and grew up in a rural area, even by Southern standards.

This being said, there are things I love and treasure about the culture, but there are also very distinct reasons that I no longer live there. This review is a mixture of quotes from the book and my personal experiences on the same topics.

 

deepsouth


Pages
:464  Genre: Travel/ Regional Nonfiction

Rating: 3 of 5 fried pies  Average Goodreads Rating: 3.78 of 5 stars

Summary from Amazon: One of the most acclaimed travel writers of our time turns his unflinching eye on an American South too often overlooked

Paul Theroux has spent fifty years crossing the globe, adventuring in the exotic, seeking the rich history and folklore of the far away. Now, for the first time, in his tenth travel book, Theroux explores a piece of America — the Deep South. He finds there a paradoxical place, full of incomparable music, unparalleled cuisine, and yet also some of the nation’s worst schools, housing, and unemployment rates. It’s these parts of the South, so often ignored, that have caught Theroux’s keen traveler’s eye. 

On road trips spanning four seasons, wending along rural highways, Theroux visits gun shows and small-town churches, laborers in Arkansas, and parts of Mississippi where they still call the farm up the road “the plantation.” He talks to mayors and social workers, writers and reverends, the working poor and farming families — the unsung heroes of the south, the people who, despite it all, never left, and also those who returned home to rebuild a place they could never live without. 

From the writer whose “great mission has always been to transport us beyond that reading chair, to challenge himself — and thus, to challenge us” (Boston Globe), Deep South is an ode to a region, vivid and haunting, full of life and loss alike.
Find the book: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N  

MAJOR POINTS

The book is supposed to be an inside look on the culture and conditions of the southern states and the people who call it home. The reality is that he spent a very small amount of time in the south in general, and instead the majority of the book focuses on specific small towns, mainly in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. He visits these same rural communities for short periods multiple times, during different times of the year. This allows him to see changes in the area and the people, but it also means the majority of his observations are either very specific or regional generalizations.

FAULKNER’S SOUTH

“Faulkner insisted on how different Southerners are from the rest of Americans; it is a belief that many Southerners cling to…”

Faulkner is referenced throughout the book, and he has a dedicated chapter just to his version of the Southern town and townspeople. I think the view of the south in literature and how it’s changed overtime is an important point when contrasted to what Theroux actually observed, but the extensive quotations and references to different books and authors was distracting and verbose.

SOUTHERN CULTURE

“[The] Southern identity is not a matter of local color, quaintness, biscuits, white columns, dusty roads, and so forth. It lies very deep. In its entirety, it is known only to God, but of those who look for it, none gets so close as the artist.”

We are easy to identify as soon as we speak. We have a drawl and distinct vocabulary that distinguishes us from other regions. The majority of these preconceived notions are not positive. Racism is still rampant. Poverty, illiteracy, and violence are widespread. These things perpetrate the stereotype of the gun toting redneck and the entitled southern belle.

“The poor, having little else, keep their culture intact as part of their vitality, long after the well off have dumped it.”

This is completely true. It also has to do with the “altered” history many of us are presented, which just furthers the resentment stemming from the Civil War and forced integration during the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. I graduated high school in 2000 and still learned about the Civil War as “the war of northern aggression” and the fight for “state’s rights.” Everything covering this subject was skewed to a southern perspective of being wronged by the north.

The area I’m from has an annual reunion and celebration honoring confederate soldiers who fell in the Civil War and locals boast about how my region of the Ozarks holds the headquarters of the [still active] Klan. Being raised in this environment doesn’t mean you’re destined adopt these ideals, my husband and I are both proof of that, but with this sort of inundation it makes it harder to see perspectives garnered as “outsider” points of view and harder still to realize these differences actually exist. You never realize what is regional until you venture out of that area and gain perspective.

“One is more often greeted with suspicion, hostility, or indifference. In this way Americans could be more challenging, more secretive and suspicious and in many respects more foreign, than people I have ever met.”

Theroux recounted the dichotomy of the welcome and hospitality of the South, with the wariness of outsiders. In many of the areas I’ve lived in and traveled to, if you don’t have grandparents buried there, you’re not “from” there. He does an excellent job giving real examples of times when this is true and how many topics of conversation discussed openly by Southerners with strangers, are considered private information by people from other region. It’s not uncommon to meet someone in line somewhere (where it’s considered rude not to chat) and their second question is what church you attend.

WORKING POOR AND POVERTY 

“Sixteen percent of Americans were classified as poor–and it was twenty percent in the South, in places where the income gap was growing wider than at any time in history.”

Where I grew up in the Ozark mountains of northern Arkansas, I knew people who didn’t have indoor plumbing and lived in the same conditions the author recounts of the south in general. Conditions he deems “third world.” When I describe growing up poor in the south to scientist friends in Boston, they are always shocked. Working as a child is still common, either on a farm or doing random jobs. My first paid job was around the age of 12, where I washed dishes for a local catfish restaurant. This is something none of my Northern friends experienced. Some had jobs, but most were part time and not until college to use as “spending money.”

“Companies had come to the South because the labor force was available and willing, wages were low, land was inexpensive, and unions were nonexistent.”

This passage hit me particularly hard. My grandmother worked in a shirt factory, that if it was located anywhere else in the world would have been considered a sweatshop. It wasn’t heated or cooled, and would get over 90F inside during the summers. If she didn’t meet her quota her already low pay was docked. At one point when I was in elementary, my grandmother sewed through her hand. She wasn’t allowed to go to the doctor, and her pay was docked twice, once for not meeting her daily quota for the time she took to remove the needle from her hand and bandage herself, the second for the loss of merchandise because she bleed on the shirts she was working on.

No one complained openly because they couldn’t risk losing one of the few regular jobs available in the area. A hard but sought after job because it came with health insurance, something most of the people I grew up with, myself included, didn’t have. The entire factory, and the others located in nearby towns, was outsourced to Mexico in the early 2000’s, after I left for collage.

“The poor in the rural South cast aside and existing like residue.”

This taught me the value of hard work but my family also said time and time again that you should be thankful for any job and do it to the best of your ability, because if you don’t there is a line of willing bodies waiting behind you that haven’t been so lucky. This is something that means my work ethic today borders on pathological, but has also allowed me to be very successful because the majority of the country (thankfully) doesn’t have this mentality and only specific parts have the lasting experience true poverty provides.

“Poverty is a great educator. Those who have never known it lack something.”

I don’t really like this statement, but it does sum up much of the South. When you work to eat and starve if you rock the boat or complain about conditions, your basal level of what is acceptable is shifted from the average worker. I now work with mostly people who came from middle or upper middle class families, and my previous position in the Ivy League involved working with people who were independently wealthy or came from this sort of background. Most of the time this isn’t an issue, but it’s easy to take risks both in career and education when you have a safety net you know will catch you. The majority of the working poor don’t have this. I knew continuing on to college was completely up to me, if I lost a scholarship or couldn’t deal with increases in tuition I would simply have to quit. HERE is a document complied in 2014 by the US government on many of the limitations poverty places on education and potential for advancement.

“I saw […] a pawnshop, since the most costly and pawnable item in a hill country household is a firearm.”

My parents opened a pawnshop when I was in middle school, and it proved to be a turning point for us financially. We had a lot of hardships when I was very young, but this business provided a little more security. We no longer had periods without heat in the winter, and I went to the movies and out to dinner for the first time a year or two after the shop was opened (around the age of 12). This didn’t by any means make us “well off” or even really comfortable, but it did allow us to have basic needs covered and new clothes once a year.

The shop also met a need in the community. Up to this point second hand tools and other products were only available at yard [or tag] sales. The last several years have been hard on them though, I asked my mother why and told her that I thought business would be increasing because people needed used things over new she responded, “The people who couldn’t afford new before, now can’t afford used.”

Guns and bows are still the most common item purchased and pawned for the shop because of the quote above. Every time I visit home and spend any length of time in the shop, the conversation eventually turns to someone taking the guns, or ammo shortages.. which is a topic the author heard all through his travels.

RACE

This is a major topic throughout the book, and rightfully so. Theroux terms the portions of the South heavily populated by former slaves as the “black belt.” He does a good job contrasting the communities and outlining the separation that still exists today. Theroux even brings examples of college sororities and fraternities that are still divided by racial lines.

The book also gives several examples of the impact the fear of change can have on the community and on the individual. “The South remembers,” is a phrase I grew up hearing and facilitates the culture so many are trying to hold on to, but also so many of the prejudices that shame us and prevent us from growing and progressing as a region.

Most of the people I’ve met in New England and abroad who have ventured to the South have all mentioned it’s like stepping back in time and the longer I’m away the more I see it.

VETERANS

The author meets several veterans while traveling and touches on how the poorer region of the South donates the lives of many of it’s sons and daughters to military life. Many of the personal accounts in the book relate that military life was their only way out of poverty and the only way they would get to see the world would be through the lens of a rifle scope.

povertyopportunity

This image is taken from THIS article about poverty and opportunity.
Expanded on in a second article about the cost of inequality, HERE.

A large portion of my family is military, as are many of the people I went to school with. There is a great passage from a Vietnam vet and his experience returning from war to a still racially charged southern town, even after serving his country and coming home damaged as an Airborne veteran. Many of the people from my hometown have ended up in this division and many of those people now have memorials. It’s a very sobering thing as a teen to attend the funeral or memorial service for someone the same age as you. I assume the same is true for those who experience loss in urban areas. Death is death and it tends to visit the poor more frequently.

CRITICISM

I have a few problems with this book, though it is insightful and well written in many places. One is the obviously biased descriptors sometimes used for the regions he visits, such as the “bumpkin hills” of the Ozark mountains in Arkansas. This is where I’m from, and likely why this judgement based word choice stuck with me.

Theroux repeatedly refers to his previous books and his travels around the world. I think at least once in every major section he mentions the aid and relieve efforts in “third world” countries, and draws the parallel to how little support much of the impoverished south receives. While the original point is very good, I don’t think the reader had a memory laps after 20 pages of reading and revisiting with the same exact phrasing became off-putting near the end of the book.

Expanding on this point, he obviously wrote this book in sections, with each subsequent visit being a new account on the area. While I’m sure he needed to remind himself of certain aspects of each particular visit, when read as a complete piece this is redundant and distracting. The expansion of changes he noted in the area was interesting, but I didn’t need a complete history of the town each time it was revisited.

My final major criticism of this book is the name dropping style he quotes other books and authors. Sometimes it’s relevant, but the majority of the time it’s just filler.

“… around the world, the private language of the underclass that identifies the speaker and is exclusive to that group: Cockney, street slang, and thieves’ argot, and verbal formulas that are distinct to secret societies, to baffle and vex and exclude outsiders.”

This is part of the reason I will always identify with the South and Southern culture. You can tell as soon as I speak that I’m not from New England. This same accent gives me away as “belonging” when I return to the south. It’s also easy. I know the rules and how to interact. Poverty and unity of community leaves a mark that travels with you, even after years of being away. I think this is part of the reason so many of the people Theroux interviewed eventually return to the area that once was home. There will always be things I don’t agree with, and hopes I have for the region as a whole, but it will also always be my home, even if I never live there again.