One trope I had at one point or another felt was a lazy narrative device was the what I called “unexplained calling.” You know the one. The call to adventure wherein a character’s motivation to go to a place or do a thing doesn’t come from interpersonal conflict or an aspect of their past, but just a feeling they get. They set about their adventure because they feel called upon to do so. You don’t need to substantiate it or justify it. They just feel that way.
A little bit of life experience has told me that that kind of sh*t sometimes totally just happens, though.
Now, I can – like with any example of the above gripe – do a psychological deep-dive on the in’s and out’s of maybe why the motivation manifests the way it does, and with the confession I’m about to make, I will.
When I was a kid, we moved around a lot for the sake of my dad’s health some, but mostly my mom’s job mobility. Born in Oregon, spent some time in California, moved out to Kentucky, up to New York, and back to the west coast. In New York, we were in a tiny little hamlet called Highland Falls. A quick check to Google Maps will show you it’s along the Hudson River, and about forty minutes’ north of New York City. It’s tiny, a drive-through town. We lived there for about two years while I was six and seven years old before we moved out to California where I really did my growing up.
So even though California has become my home state and where I’ve spent most of my life, part of my brain has remained doggedly rooted to Highland Falls, and I’ve been what I can only describe as “viciously nostalgic” for that little village ever since moving away. Now, I’m no psychologist beyond the garden ‘armchair’ variety, but I have a hunch as to why I’m that way. When we moved out here and I turned eight, it began a long series of life events and landmarks, from 9/11, my dad passing away, and a series of new schools as we continued to bounce around, to the tumultuous nature of teenager years with all the first’s that come with them and every struggle that’s followed since in my twenties. If I had to guess – and I do, citing my aforementioned lack of credentials as well as not being an all-knowing genie – my psyche sort of sees that quiet little town as The Good Ol’ Days, and the move out to California as when The Trouble Began (“Trouble” being just what growing up is). So it latches onto my foggy memories of that time with the rose-tintiest of rose-tinted glasses.
Even accepting that as true enough and explaining somewhat rationally where the impulse comes from, it doesn’t really stop me from really wanting to visit the place again. Which, to put that into perspective, would mean taking time off of work, organizing flights, rental cars, hotel stays, and more, all totalling to a couple grand of travel costs…to see drive-through town that can’t possibly resemble the one I knew growing up.
Like, really. For what? To see a childhood home I lived in for two years that’s probably been repainted? Is that really worth the time and the price tag? No. Of course not. The obvious work around is to just look up my old address on Google Maps and take a Street View tour of the town, if the nostalgia means so much to me, right? Well, guess what smart guy? I already did that. Here’s the thing: The street I grew up on is the ONLY ONE that the Google car DIDN’T map out. So what we have now is an implacable calling to a small New England town in the middle of nowhere, to see a house that shouldn’t hold any value to me sentimental or otherwise, and a global mapping service that has said house strangely blurred out, only fueling this feeling of mystery.
The way I see it, this can only go one of two ways.
One: I fly out there, rent a car, the Whole Nine, and I make it to my childhood house to find the town even smaller than I remember and the house with new owners who would be understandably perplexed to see a thirty-year-old staring at their front door with his sole explanation that he lived there more than twenty years ago. The town is just a town. My childhood is well and truly gone. The house is just a house. There is no calling. I just wasted a couple thousand to see a regular old town like any thousands of others and should reexamine some things in my life.
Two: I fly out there and all the rest, uncover some real eldritch, funky Stephen King sh*t, and am never heard from again by my friends and family.
I guess, if for positively no other reason than posterity, let this post stand for the record when, in a year or two, I decide to make the pilgrimage, announce it on here, and this blog abruptly ceases being updated forever. Like, I know I take breaks here and there, but if I say “Hey, I’m off to Highland Falls. I’ll update you,” and y’all never hear from me again, it’s some weird It stuff. Aliens. Monsters. Men in Black, some kind of funky stuff, and this meager slice of the internet can stand as dubious proof of that.
So…I guess…’til then, right?
One thought on “Highland Falls, NY”
Ghost (and ghost memories) are real and powerful. I hope you make it to Highland Falls one day, and that you make it back!
And now gonna go do the google streetview of some quaint little new england town!