Maps of Home
This is Janesville, Wisconsin
This is Janesville, Wisconsin
...as it shows up on most maps.
Founded in 1835 by a woodsman and city planner, most people know it as the hometown of Paul Ryan and a General Motors plant that shut down years ago.
This is Janesville, Wisconsin, to me.
Between 1990 and 2009, this was home.
Hopping through a shortcut hole in a fence walking to school,
Struggling to move a solid wood piano replica across an alleyway in midst a snowstorm...
Finding sanctuary from the night-time monsters...
Looking forward to the mornings that my crush might sit next to me...
Shoveling freshly fallen snow.
After six months on an island in New York City, I moved back to Wisconsin. Initially planned as a long trip, a family member’s “not-the-plague-but-still-serious” illness spurred a more temporarily permanent relocation.
Like most folks who move away, I’ve returned a good deal for quick holiday pop-ins. Sticking around, however, really floods ya with recollections. Lots of: “Oh, that’s right, Wisconsin is like this”. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the brain forget how many spiders live in Midwestern homes.
For those who read Maps from Isolation, I went with driving to make the trip. As much fun as walking halfway across the country could have been…
Of course, the specter of Covid-19 looms large over this homecoming. In lieu of “welcome back drinks, there’s instead “friendly hand waves from porches.” It continues to be a weird pseudo-presence. Despite being more physically nearby to folks, quarantining makes it hard to feel that much actually closer.
For the most part, conversations follow a similar trajectory – covid sucks, isolation is a bummer, but we’re persevering. Without the opportunity to do things with others, or share experiences that aren’t plague related, conversations can feel surface level.
That said, every rendezvous carries a weight with it.
That you're taking a risk, however mitigated or small,
just to sit and chat for a bit.
I've never missed Janesville, and don't feel an urge to end up here. Instead, I appreciate that for nineteen years, it was a good place to grow up with a lot of wonderful folks running around.
It is enthralling realizing that for each of those folk, this lil' dot blows out to a whole other story.
Heck, anyone whose ever slept in the bounds of
or anywhere, ever
will draw their own dreams of what a place it was.
The Janesville I grew up in is gone forever, and that’s ok! You can’t visit it really, but I’m content that at least this familiar space retains some echoes. Small confirmations of that time and place.
That hole in the fence was never repaired. The steel wire remains bashed down for easy passage, though without Moriarty’s trampling it daily, fauna has overtaken the gap. A small tree is growing right through it.
Traces linger of a kid trotting off to school.
October, 22nd 2020
The map concept at the top of this piece has been kicking in my head for a long while. Came from a dream: Meandering in a museum space, from far, far away you see a map introducing a new exhibit on New York City. Walking closer, the standard .NEW YORK CITY dot became more detailed until you'd get to up close and discovered that each inch had a drawing detailing that block's history. A historical illustration with the energy and detail of a Where's Waldo page. No doubt inspired by the wonderful 1981 illustrated map of Chicago gangs.
This is a more modest implementation of that concept. Don't quite feel like I could do that map justice without significant study. Making it more introspective saves a lot of time on research! Moving near Janesville and turning thirty probably helped too.
U.S. cities dataset from the U.S. Census.