It’s good to be home after living here and there across America.
Once again, Akron’s now home. And I discovered something while re-settling in: The regions I’ve inhabited truly have their own folkways and idiosyncrasies, which for good, bad or indifferent made me come to appreciate Akron’s individuality — including the habitual front runners of sauerkraut balls, our “devil’s strip” and the myriad of ways to pronounce Montrose.
I left Akron at 18 in the late ’70s for L.A., where almost everyone has an agent but is serving you an omelette at Denny’s. At a beach one afternoon, a surfer called, “Dude, you surf?”
“No, I’m from Akron,” I replied.
Puzzled, he then said, “Oh yeah, tires, the Motor City … cool!”
I then realized Rand McNally wouldn’t be calling Gidget’s counterpart for his cartography skills.
“Akron’s the Rubber City,” I corrected with a sniff.
In L.A. pretty much anything goes. It’s the same in Akron, and usually in Aisle One at Marc’s.
Down south in Charlotte, N.C., folks are ever so polite, with manners so humbling they make yours look as if you were raised by a stevedore. I eventually learned that “Oh, bless his heart” could mean one may have the mentality of a bowling pin, depending on who’s praising whom.
Charlotte gave me an appreciation for fried pickles and grits, and there I became accustomed to deviled eggs working part-time as a garnish. I also managed to swallow nearly whole a fried Snickers bar, after which time I took to wearing a hair shirt for penance. (My Food Pyramid had already been inverted with the always-wanton Galley Boy.) Southern women I encountered were wont to use “Darlin'” and “Sugar” with a greeting. A former female boss would sidle up to me with, “How y’all doing, darlin’?” I felt so cheap yet thrilled.
Women in Akron are just as friendly, but more cautious, keep you guessing and prefer to pump their own gas.
Up the coast in New England, a Boston neighbor pointed out what she thought was my “obvious Midwestern accent.” I jumped on that so quick, I nearly broke my neck. So I asked her why, in addition to her unmistakable dialect, she added an “r” to words that didn’t end with one and deleted it from words that do. As in, “Frankie’s a good readah, so I got an idear to get him a gift cahd at the bookstah.” She grinned broadly.
We both got what we wanted.
New Englanders are friendly but cautiously so. I get that because winding through Boston’s magnificent, venerable architecture are tight streets clogged with humanity — all vying for space. But Bostonians do look after you; rather, they’ve “got your back,” which is nice, unless you’re in a prison setting. Dunkin’ Donuts is practically a religion in Boston, considering it was founded in nearby Quincy (pronounced QuinZEE). So if I wanted Krispy Kreme, which I grew up with, Connecticut had the closet shop.
I’m no globe trotter but am happy to have lived away, which afforded me an education books can’t provide. And I’ve found that Akron’s a place with the kind of people who work to make you one of their own, no matter how long you’ve been away or if you’re just arriving.
Writer Thom Callahan is an Akron-based freelance writer who made his way back home from points West, South and East.