Confession: I’m in the midst of a Gilmore Girls obsession. I missed it the first time around, but I discovered Lauren Graham in Parenthood (fantastic show), and after a good friend said he liked the Gilmore Girls and thought I would too, I decided to check it out. And I basically haven’t watched anything else since. Of course there’s the obvious parallel with my life, seeing as how she’s a single mom and all, but that’s really where it stops. My fascination with it has to do with this small town thing they’ve got going.
I’ve wished many times in the past few years that I could move away, and Pittsburgh is the most realistic of the fantasy destinations. And while Pittsburgh is accessible and in no way huge, it's still a city, so I was quite surprised when I found myself fantasizing about moving to a small town while I was out west this summer. And the source of this fantasy was a really small town: Cooke City, Montana. It’s basically a stretch of buildings you drive through on the way to the Beartooth Highway as you’re leaving Yellowstone. I’m not sure why people would even drive through really, unless they lived in one of the tiny towns on the other side or just wanted to get a glimpse of that Pass (which is amazing and tundra-like and totally worth the trip if you’re ever in the area). The town has two bars and a convenience store, two small motels, and a couple restaurants. Some of the girls on the trip I was on had a bit of a toilet situation and couldn’t find a plunger, and when they went into the convenience store to ask if they could borrow one, the guy consulted a posted list of all the people in town and their phone numbers. Now that is small.
Anyway, what was the appeal of that town? What would I actually do there? I have no idea. It’s mostly about escaping with a truck and a dog and having only the strange people you meet to contend with. I conjured up scenes from Northern Exposure while I was there.
So to bring it back around, Gilmore Girls kind of plays into this small town fantasy. There are all these townspeople who know each other and love each other and annoy each other and are always doing something together or squabbling or gossiping—it just gives you the sense that they feel like they belong there and are a part of something. I’ve been wondering a lot lately why it is that some people stay or come back to where they grew up and feel content with that, while others have to get out and explore and find it trapping to stay in one place. I think being home gives some people the same sense of community and belonging that a religion can, or a tight ethnic community where everyone shares a common experience or sense of values.
All that to say, Morgantown is not so small that you know everyone’s business, Gilmore Girls-style, but it’s no city. And it does have quaint things that I enjoy, like downtown parades. Being able to walk to them and run through the cemetery (if you are 5) along the way is also a plus. Meeting up with a friend from kindergarten who you can grab candy with makes it even better. And I love that.